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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 8-8.5/10

Starred Up (2014)

When in jail, make sure to start as many fights, with as many inmates as possible. Heard that always works right away.

Young, feisty and chock full of piss-and-vinegar Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) heads to the slammer with a bang: Not only does he trash his cell, but even comes close to killing a security-guard. He does this not to just show dominance and that he isn’t afraid of anyone stationed in the various cells around him, but to remind people that he’s not a lad to be messed with. However, due to his constant angry-bursts, he has to cut a deal with the warden to keep himself closer to his father (Ben Mendelsohn) who also is, believe it or not, incarcerated at the same prison and taking on something of a new life, in the vaguest sense I can explain it as. The deal: Frequently go to and behave at a few meetings with the prison counselor (Rupert Friend), while also maintaining to stay out of trouble outside of the sessions as well. Though he’s clearly not going to back down from a fight without throwing a few elbows or two, Eric finds himself actually adjusting to new life in prison quite well, but sometimes, what happens in prison, stays in prison and with the enemies that he’s already made, he may have to look twice behind his back to stay alive and well.

Prison-dramas are usually effective, if only because they’re quite simple to make: One setting, a few characters, and only a few more situations/dilemmas that a certain amount of prison-dramas can actually explore. Though that may make the prison-drama genre as a whole, seem somewhat boring and unoriginal, there still seems to be enough life left in them to where something as small as Starred Up can make a noise, as measly as that may be.

"Stop being such a silly twat!"

“Stop being such a silly twat!”

See, with this movie here, rather than taking itself out of the prison itself and focusing on these characters, how they got to be in the slammer in the first place, and why, underneath it all, they’re tragic characters, the movie just stays pit. We hardly ever leave the prison itself, nor do we ever really get to hear much of a back-story as to why certain characters are where they are in the first place; we just assume that the outside world is there, moving on naturally, and that anybody in this prison, who also happens to be behind bars, did something bad to get them there in the first place.

Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s because it is and yet, somehow, director David Mackenzie is able to dig a bit deeper and make this movie more than just a standard prison-drama; it’s a movie about life, love, the pursuit of happiness and how we all, no matter how troubled our lives may be, want to just make us, as well as the ones we love, happy. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too sappy for a movie which, in the first five minutes, already features the use of the words “cunt” and “fuck” more times than I’ve heard my British grand-mother use (I don’t have one, but you get the drift), but there’s something to be said for a movie that shows itself as being so hard-edged, violent and mean, yet on the inside, beneath the surface and all, is actually quite heartfelt and sweet.

Okay, now I know I’m really losing you, as well as myself, but bear with me here! Please! Because even though this movie definitely battles with some issues and themes that may make the inner-man that all of us have, tighten-up a bit and demand muscle milk, there’s still plenty that most of the usual, testosterone-fueled viewers can enjoy when they decide to take time out of their day and watch a prison drama. Meaning, yes, there’s a lot of blood-shed, knives, fighting, tossing, kicking, hitting, swearing, and all that good stuff we can expect to see from just watching a single episode of Oz.

And it’s all pretty effective; though some of it is gratuitous, that’s sort of the point. Prison is a harsh place and if you can hang around in it, then you’re better off dead (and surely, you will be soon). But like I’ve said before, the movie gets down to the nitty gritty of who these inmates truly are and why most of them stick together, especially when they sure as hell shouldn’t. Most of these inmates are genuinely angry, distasteful people that deserved to be exactly where they are, but some of them, are just troubled and confused individuals that may have made a stupid decision in their life and paying for it as peacefully as they can.

That’s why Eric Love is such an intriguing protagonist to have – he’s a small, rather skinny lad, yet, has so much anger bent deep down inside of him, that when he has time to actually allow for it to vent out onto those around him, we’re absolutely terrified and see why he got himself into this place in the first place. But then, something strange happens, as the movie goes on, we realize that Love is actually the kind of character we expected him to be: Tiny, scared, self-conscious and would much rather use his fists to end an argument, rather than actual words of reasonable wisdom. And though we don’t get too much pretense as to who this guy really is underneath all of the body-tattoos, we know enough by how he reacts to those around him in prison and the various situations he is thrown into.

Somehow, I feel like therapy and prison don't quite together so well.

Somehow, I feel like therapy and prison don’t quite together so well.

Which is to say, that I think it goes without saying, that Jack O’Connell is downright breathtaking in this role here as Eric Love. From the very few seconds we meet him, to where we end, O’Connell seems to be on another planet of “Crazy”. Throughout the flick, O’Connell gets scream, holler, beat his chest, take off his shirt, run, throw fists, choke people out and do all sorts of other bad things, yet, he’s constantly compelling to watch the whole time. We get the feeling that there’s still a heartbroken and upset little boy trapped down inside of him, and rather than write him off as a “dick”, we see him as a character that can, yes, be nurtured and maimed, given the right supervision and guidance in his life.

Which is why it was also a great idea on behalf of the casting-department to go through with giving the role of Love’s daddy to none other than Ben Mendelsohn himself. If you’ve ever seen Mendelsohn in anything before, you’ll know that a role in which he plays a ruthless, tough-love prison-inmate is pretty much perfect, but Mendelsohn even takes that a bit further. See, rather than making his character a tough-as-nails guy in prison trying to teach his son how to survive in the hell-hole that is prison, Mendelsohn gives off a certain level of vulnerability and sweetness that makes you see this man, not just as a father-figure, but a man who is genuinely upset that he never got to be with his son during his formative years. Though he has a hard time of showing it, Mendelsohn’s character is really one who cares and just wants what’s best for his son, even if that means having to take down a couple of inmates in the process.

And that’s why, my friends, prison is not a place you never, ever want to be in. But the film doesn’t end on that corny note; instead, it focuses on the fact that, it doesn’t matter where we are in this world or what sort of situations we are thrown into, it’s never too late to be involved with the ones you love and their lives. Though the film doesn’t openly preach this out to the choir, it’s obvious that it wants to be about what it means to be a human being, and to love, feel, and emote, even when the environment surrounding you tells you to do the exact obvious.

Okay, now that’s very sappy, but so what!??! Prison is harsh, man! We all need a hug every so often!

Consensus: Simple, yet as incredibly detailed as possible, Starred Up may be another harsh, unflinching portrayal of life in prison, but it also doesn’t shy away from getting to the heart of the place, as well the various people who just so happen to be stuck there.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

How I usually look while waiting for the pregnancy test results to get back to me.

How I usually look while waiting to hear of the pregnancy’s test results.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Stay away from graveyards, people. They’re creepy enough as is.

Former NYC cop Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) used to be a total alcoholic. He’d wake up, go to his local bar, have a coffee, and then down two shots of liquor. However, one fateful day, that all changes and eight years later, he’s regularly attending AA meetings, living alone, eating at diners, and also turning in some work as a non-official private eye. One night he gets an offer and decides to seek it out: Find a group of serial killers that are kidnapping rich drug-dealer’s wives/loved-ones, ransoming money off of them, and yet, still taking the liberty of hacking these women up to little pieces. To them, it’s all fun and games, so when an actual drug-dealer (Dan Stevens) calls on Scudder to do this job for him, he doesn’t back away from it. After all, getting rid of a few serial killers in this world is a job well done, no matter how you do it. But Scudder eventually realizes that this job is going to be a bit more difficult and nerve-wracking than he would have liked, which is why he, whether he likes it or not, gets some assistance from a local homeless kid by the name of TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley).

And yet again, here we are, people, another “Liam Neeson kicks ass” kind of movie where he, yes, is a certain man, with a certain level of skills, takes it upon himself to go about utilizing those skills, shows that he’s a nice guy underneath the sometimes questionable-decisions he makes and, well, of course, tells the villains to, for lack of a better term, “fuck off”. Yes, these are the kinds of movies we can all expect from Liam Neeson right about now and while some can say that they’re bored by this and want him to go back to making Oscar-caliber films with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, or Martin Scorsese, the fact is, nope, Liam ain’t too bothered with any of them.

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin' nuts?!?!

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin’ nuts?!?!

He is, as they say in the biz, striking while the iron is hot and rather than trying something daring to make sure his “arthouse”-ish crowd is pleased with him, Liam is just going to stay and continue to make these typical, run-of-the-mill action-thrillers where he, yes, kicks plenty of ass.

However, that’s not to say any of them are bad and because most of them aren’t, I’m quite happy for Neeson. He’s the type of actor who, with his tall-frame and soft, yet still intimidating Scottish-accent, deserves many movies to be made where he’s, typically, the center of attention. Which is why he seems to be a perfect choice for Matthew Scudder; the type of troubled, somewhat crooked-cop that isn’t the nicest, nor the most moral of guys, but wants to see that he gets the job done, in the most efficient way possible. Meaning, that he wants to ensure no innocent people are killed while he is completing his various shady tasks.

But Scudder isn’t just a well-written character in the way that he’s well-rounded, he’s funny and shows a charming side to his sometimes grim personality that we know Neeson is capable of high-lighting every so often. To say that Neeson is great here, would almost be too obvious for me to even state, but here I am, stating that Neeson is great here and practically carries the movie on his own two, long, lanky shoulders.

That said, the rest of the movie isn’t all that bad, because while Neeson helps it get through some rough patches (whenever the serial-killers pop-up, they’re pretty conventional and spend most of their scenes just being strange, in almost too-serious way to be not kidding), it’s writer/director Scott Frank who really makes this movie work. Something about this flick’s tone, the way it’s so hush-hush most of the time and how it doesn’t seem to glorify it’s over-the-top, grisly violence, yet still shows it in a derogatory light that he makes it seem like more than just “movie violence”, is what really made me think that Frank should make more movies. The dude’s already written my favorite Steven Soderbergh movie (Out of Sight) and actually had a pretty stellar directorial-debut of his own not too long ago (the Lookout), so why wait any longer, Scott? Let’s keep this a train a-goin’, man!

Anyway, like I was saying, Frank’s direction here is really genius and it brings a smile to my face knowing that there are certain film makers out there who still care about giving us genuinely tense, sometimes unpredictable thrillers. Thrillers that, mind you, don’t necessarily rely on how many times a gun is shot, or even how many bones are broken in a particular brawl – much rather, thrillers that take time to not only build the story it is trying to tell, but also give us some context in how we’re supposed to think of these characters as. Not all of these characters are great people here (most of them, drug dealers), but the movie doesn’t simply judge them on who they are, much more than on what it is that they do.

"I'm used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you'll do."

“I’m used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you’ll do.”

For instance, take the character of TJ who, in a lesser-movie, would have been the stereotypical smart-aleck-y, rather adorable kid that Liam Neeson’s character not only stumbles upon by pure chance, but even takes under his wing and make his new sidekick. Add on the fact that TJ is in fact black, and you’ve got yourself a walking, talking, breathing cliché just waiting to ruin your goddamn movie, not to mention your time! But somehow, TJ, nor anything surrounding him, seems to be written that way; he’s a simple orphan kid that is a bit punk-ish, but is still curious enough about how this world Scudder surrounds himself with, not just works, but how he can be apart of it without getting him, or anybody else killed. Not to mention the fact that this young guy, Brian “Astro Bradley, is very good in the role, making you feel sorry that he’s sort of left all by his lonesome, but also happy that he may, or may not, have a future hangin’ around this tall, New Yorker, with an Irish-accent.

I know I’m getting into this a bit more than I maybe should, but there was just a feeling I got with this movie that I haven’t gotten with a thriller in quite some time. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because a little bit of time ago, when I saw the Drop, I felt sort of the same way: A crime-thriller that takes its time to build momentum, as well as character-development. While those movies seem sort of neck-and-neck in my eyes, they’re both clear-as-day examples of what can happen when you take a simple story revolving around thugs, doing thuggish-like things, and make it as detailed as humanly possible, without ever overly-boring the audience, nor giving them enough to where they can expect everything to happen as clearly as they may have predicted it as being straight from seeing the advertisements for it.

So, once again I say this: Scott Frank, continue to make movies. You’ll make me a very happy man and most of all, a very happy movie-goer.

Consensus: With extra-attention paid to the look, feel, and characters that inhabit its slightly unnerving story, A Walk Among the Tombstones is, yet again, another winner for Liam Neeson and his seemingly unfazed streak right now, except a lot smarter and wiser this time around.

8 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see."

“Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Drop (2014)

Never trust a silent bartender. Don’t even bother tipping them, either.

Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) is a bit of a lone wolf in that, he mostly keeps to himself, goes to work at the bar his cousin, Marv (James Gandolfini), run, and goes to Church every Sunday. Also, occasionally he drops some money to fellow gangsters who own his bar. So yeah, life is good for Bob, that is, until he discovers a beaten-up and bruised puppy in a trashcan. Which yeah, doesn’t seem all that bad considering that he takes it in as his own and even names it, but he starts to develop a relationship with the woman who found it with him (Noomi Rapace), which brings around her ex-boyfriend, the near-psychotic Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). Also, to make matters worse, he and Marv’s place ends up getting robbed, which means that they have to find a way to pay the owners back, or else they’ll be sleeping with the fishes. And if things couldn’t get even worse for these two fellas, a local detective (John Ortiz) starts sticking his nose in certain places that comes a little too close to comfort for both of them.

What we have here is another one of those simple crime-thriller dramas that, on paper, don’t really seem like much: Quiet dude finds dog, quiet takes dog in, quiet dude falls in love with dog, quiet dude’s life suddenly becomes a whole lot of hell. That sounds boring and, like I noted before, on paper, it probably would be. However, that’s what happens when you’re able to transport something to the silver screen, where you not only having somebody direct others about how certain scenes are supposed to sound or look, but also those “others” being some very talented actors and actresses that can jump into any role, without ever making us second-guess their casting decision.

Oldest trick in the book. Oh, Tom Hardy. You snake, you.

Oldest trick in the book. Oh, Tom Hardy. You snake, you.

I’m rambling on so much like this because it’s so very often I get a small, intimate movie such as this, that doesn’t feel like it’s being that way due to budget-constraints. There are so many movies out there (aka, indies), that feel like they have a small scope because they can’t go anywhere else. Here however, director Michaël R. Roskam keeps his story tiny, because that’s what it exactly is: A small crime-tale of a bunch of thugs, low-life’s and simple do-gooders that just can’t help but be taken down by the world they live in.

And that’s why most of the Drop works; whenever it pays close attention to these characters, their connections to one another and what makes them who they are, the movie stays interesting. They’re not the best-written characters in the whole world, but they’re done well enough to where you can find a little something to sympathize with in each and everyone of them. Then again though, it’s also easy to be able to distrust some of them too and realize that while on the surface, they may be fine, simple-minded people, deep down inside, underneath all of the tucks and turns, they can be really mean, almost savage-like people. They can easily do the wrong thing, to the wrong person, and continue to move on with their lives as is, even if it does beat them up inside. They’re just trying to survive in a world that, for the most part, could live on without them.

Sounds like some pretty sad, mopey stuff to deal with here, but I can assure you, the movie’s not nearly as dark as I present it to be. There is some humor to be found and when the actual crime-angle of this story starts to develop, there can be some fun to be found. However, the double-edged sword here is that while it may be fun to watch a bunch of gangsters go around, shooting, killing and yelling obscenities at one another, it doesn’t really add up to much like the character-based drama does. Still though, I can’t complain too much because while there is plenty of moments just simply dedicated to people doing bad things, there are still more than a few scenes where it’s just two characters getting to know one another better and for me, that was always something to watch and listen to. Even if, sometimes, it didn’t pan-out to much in the end other than being “bad guy”, “good guy”.

And a lot of that credit deserves to go towards Roskam, who got a very good cast together and allowed them to just sink their teeth into some small, bare-bones material we don’t see too often from these actors. Tom Hardy is doing that silent-yet-demanding thing he does in most of his movies, and while he has to do it this time with a New York-accent, the guy handles it very well. We get the feeling right away that this character is a good guy, but we also understand that there may be some darkness lying underneath it all and Hardy’s to thank for making us think that each and everytime this character’s morals get called into question.

I don't know who's scarier.

I don’t know who’s scarier.

Even Noomi Rapace does a fine job playing something of New York white trash, even if she has to do the accent, too. She’s nice enough to where you could see why some normal, everyday dude would want to take a run at her, but you can also tell that she’s been through a whole heck of a lot in her life as is, so she won’t put up with it anymore. Her and Hardy develop a nice bit of chemistry that definitely seems like it’s going to lead some heavy foreplay, and to just watch as they both wonder how to go about it is neat, especially since these characters both seem to know what they want, they just don’t know to go about getting it from the other.

You know, much like how most of my relationships with the opposite-sex are!

Anyway, most of the spotlight is being put on this film because it just so happens to feature the final performance from one James Gandolfini and honestly, it’s a great swan song for him to go out on. It’s not the most perfect performance he’s ever done and it sure as hell isn’t much different from his days as Tony Soprano, but it’s the kind of role that makes us look at Gandolfini and realize what a talent he truly was. He was mean and nasty when he wanted to scare a room full of children, but he could also lighten any mood of a scene with that big grin of his. But no matter what, you always knew that there was more to his character than what he was presenting, which is why it was always a pleasure of watching him just act; something he definitely seemed perfectly suited to do right from the very start.

Consensus: The crime-thriller aspects of the Drop may not always mesh very well with the character-based ones, but nonetheless, it’s still an interesting watch, especially if you want to see some great actors put in some wonderful work. And most of all, if you want to see James Gandolfini’s final role ever on film.

8 /10 = Matinee!!

Aw, wook at him! Sorry, Tom. You lose this time.

Aw, wook at him! Sorry, Tom. You lose this time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2010)

Jim Morrison wouldn’t have lasted a day with Mozart around, shaking things up.

Meet Glenn Gould, a child prodigy pianist who traveled over from Canada into the U.S., and made quite a name for himself in the classical music genre. He did certain things to original composings by Bach and Mozart that nobody had ever dared tried to do before and his unique style of playing the piano really made him an act that people needed to see, as soon as possible. Problem was, off the stage and away from the crowd, Gould was something of a troubled-dude. He didn’t have many friends, and for those who could consider them as such, didn’t really know him all that well. Did it stem from the fact that he was a hypochondriac? Was it because he and his family hardly ever spoke? Or, was it simply because he was just too smart for his own good? Whatever the reason may have been, is totally unknown, because just as soon as he hit the ripe of age of 50, Gould passed away, leaving a legion of adoring fans and pieces of work in the dust.

The general consensus of classical music is that, for the most part, it’s considered “pretentious”. The music itself; the people who conduct it; the people who listen to it – it doesn’t matter, it’s all pretentious. Some of that’s correct and some of it isn’t, because classical music is just like any other music out there. Sure, there usually aren’t any lyrics in any classical pieces, and there certainly aren’t any surprise guest-appearances by Lil’ Jon to be found either; but it’s music no less and it deserves to be treated as such.

That’s why, despite not having much of a background in classical music, I decided to give this documentary a shot. And I’m glad I did because I realized one key element to music that I so desperately needed to be reminded of: Every piece of music matters. And sometimes, not even just the pieces themselves, it’s those who create it, why, and the kind of impact they left on the music world for creating this one piece of music. Some may consider it “bad”, others, “a near-masterpiece”, but overall, it’s music that made a difference and I don’t see any problem with that whatsoever.

Ironic, I guess?

Ironic, I guess?

Which is why watching Glenn Gould’s story be told to us in a chronological, simple way was compelling; he’s the type of artist most comedy sketch-shows make fun of because of how strange he was, but that’s sort of the mystery behind Glenn Gould, the person, hence why Glenn Gould, the musician, was so enthralling to begin with.

And while watching this documentary, you sort of get the impression that Gould was just like every other musician out there who has ever been touted as “the next big thing”, only to have a nervous breakdown, turn away from the public eye, do whatever they want and basically, fade off into oblivion. However, in the case of Gould, there’s something slightly different – even while he was away and doing his own thing, in his own spare time, the man was still working and keeping himself busy, it just wasn’t what anybody was expecting him to be working on.

Rather than sticking straight to creating classical music, Gould traveled out into different places like the recording studio, radio, film-making, acting, writing, etc. And while he was working on these various different forms, he was finding more and more ways to make them accessible to those who wanted to work with them. He was the type of artist that was considered being perfect at his craft, yet, didn’t let that fully get to this head and just lounge out till the end of his days, while simultaneously collecting paycheck, after paycheck. Nope, not Glenn Gould and there’s something refreshing to see that in a musician of his stature.

Though it may seem like I’m just filling this review up to talk on and on about Gould himself, rather than actually focus on the movie at all, I can assure you, that is not the case. It’s just difficult to talk about a documentary when it’s main attraction is the subject itself in whom it is documenting. Because with Glenn Gould, you get a person who did something wonderful with his instrument and the world he lived in, yet, didn’t know exactly what to do with all of that notoriety. Instead, he just got away from it all and continued to live a quiet, peaceful life. But while this may all seem peachy-keen, the movie assures you it’s not. Most of this is due to the fact that Gould mostly kept to himself, but that he also didn’t always treat those around him with the utmost love and respect.

Play that funky music, white boy!

Play that funky music, white boy!

Later on by the end of the film, we get the impression that Gould was really “losing it” by the end of his life, which isn’t just sad because it’s a fragile, yet, incredible mind going to waste, but that all of those who ever supported him, were nowhere to be found. That’s not necessarily their fault, as much as it is his own, but it’s still interesting to see how this guy reacts to the fame brought onto him for his magnificent playing skills and also how he seemingly pushed any of those who ever loved him, away.

Which, once again, brings us to the mystery of just who the hell this person truly was underneath the wonderful piano-playing? Was he some sort of genius that was a lot better at playing music, then performing it in front of huge crowds and having to promote it? Or, simply, was he just another Kurt Cobain of his day? A creative genius that, sadly, was misunderstood by all of those around him. Thankfully, for Gould, there was no MTV, there was no Courtney Love and there sure as hell was no Smells Like Teen Spirit. Instead, there was just him against the world and it what proved to be his predictable, yet utterly tragic downfall.

Consensus: Regardless of your musical interests, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould will please anybody looking for an intriguing documentary about a subject who wasn’t what we’d call “normal”, nor would we call “uninteresting”.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

How I usually sit. But in crowded rooms, mind you.

How I usually sit. But in crowded rooms, mind you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Trip to Italy (2014)

More food; more locations; more My Cocaine impressions; more British-talk.

Two years after their initial food/sights tour of Northern England Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are back at it again! But this time, they’re going to Italy! Meaning, more food, more spicy women, more impersonations, more jokes, more one-up-manship, and definitely more conversations about their careers and where they’re headed. However, now that both of them are a bit older now, they question just whether or not has life passed them by and have a trouble accepting the fact that they are, yes, nearly 50. But Rob and Steve are jolly fellows that don’t let this get in the way of their wonderful getaway too much and instead, depend on one another for laughs and their own respective families for some sort of comfort when they get lonely, or sad at night. Still though, the two wake up the next day and woolah, they’re back on the road, doing what they do best: Just being themselves. Even if they do sometimes get on each other’s nerves than they would like to.

So yeah, the original Trip was a nice, delightful piece of British cinema; which is especially strange, considering it was originally made-for-TV and spliced together for a full-feature flick. While that was clear and abundant in the first movie, with some scenes not necessarily feeling like they’re adding up to much, it seems like, for the second time around, director Michael Winterbottom, Brydon and Coogan have at least realized that in order to make a movie work and be effective, it has to be cohesive. Therefore, not only is the editing a lot better this go around, but the movie itself is a bit tighter in terms of how it balances its comedy aspects, along with its dramatic ones.

"Eat up, ya twit!"

“Eat up, ya twit!”

And because these guys aren’t getting any younger, they’re starting to think like older-men – which always means that there’s going to be a whole lot more drama added to the mix. Because even though both Brydon and Coogan are exceptionally hilarious fellas, two guys who seem to not have a care in the world of who they offend, or what sort of jokes they make, they’re still human beings. And human beings have feelings, dammit!

That’s why, for every ten-minute straight-sequence in which we get Brydon and Coogan riffing off one another and doing their hilarious impersonations of various James Bond actors, there’s at least two dramatic-sequences in which these two guys talk about how they’re getting old and how life seems to be passing them by. Also not to mention, these guys realize that they can’t do much about it and instead, decide to discuss whether they even want to go on further with their careers, regardless of how well they’re doing at the present time. It’s actually kind of shocking to see these two get so candid about these aspects of real life, but I guess it had to happen eventually, and I’m glad it happened in this movie, with these characters (which, I guess, is something of a joke), and together.

Which is why I don’t find it at all dumb to say that the most interesting aspect of this movie are both Brydon and Coogan themselves. Because see, like with the first one, it’s clear that these guys are playing slight-versions of themselves that may not always be on-point, but at least hit the nail on the head with how they’re famously perceived in the media, or those not-so close to them. But what’s always struck me as a little fishy was that most of this isn’t just improvised by whatever comedic-genius they concoct next, but they even share the writing credits, along with Winterbottom as well. Meaning that even when they aren’t just saying what comes to their minds first, usually, the stuff they say, has to be written out for them to then say again in front of the screen.

And this makes me ponder something: “Just how much of this movie is them just talking about stuff their “characters” would talk about? Or, how much of it really is just them, the real life personas of Coogan and Brydon, just being themselves?

Honestly, it was quite easy to tell this in the first movie; obviously Coogan was being a miserable dick because that’s how everybody and their grand-mothers perceived him as being. But here, he’s hardly ever mean to anybody and, here’s the biggie, actually laughs more than a dozen times at Brydon. In fact, if I were to state who walks away with this movie, in a comedy-sense, I’d say it would be Brydon. And this should honestly be no surprise; the guy was a delight to watch in the first movie and here, he’s as charming as ever, showing the world that he’s capable of more than just being able to do some killer Al Pacino and Michael Caine impersonations. Some of it goes a bit over-board (as most sequels do), but when he’s on a roll, the guy doesn’t stop and it’s great to see, especially considering that you know most of this is just what hits his noggin first. The guy is literally just as funny, if not funnier than Steve Coogan and there’s something to be said for that, considering the Coogs has always prided himself in stealing just about every show he’s been involved with.

But, if you were to ask me who walks away with this movie, just as in the whole thing itself, it’s Coogan. In a way, you could say he gets the last laugh, but that’s what he spends most of the movie doing: Laughing. Not just as Brydon, but at life in general. See, Coogan’s always been something of a miserable, dead-pan dude. He’s never had a positive outlook on life and, for the most part, it’s worked out well for him and his career. He’s typically the go-to-guy if you need an angry, mean Brit who doesn’t give a shit what you say, or how you say it; he’s better than you, he knows it, and don’t worry, you’ll find that out soon enough. Maybe that’s just something I see, but whatever it may be, it’s carried on throughout his career long enough for me to realize that this is what I can expect from Coogan, playing a character or not.

Besties 4 Lyfe

Besties 4 Lyfe

However, because Coogan is practically playing himself, it’s downright shocking to see him smile and, for once in a long time I imagine, be happy about the life he has. Sure, he has some reservations about certain choices he’s made in the past and he definitely wishes that he hadn’t chosen some movies that may have made it look like he was in it “just for the money”, but overall, Coogan is a happy guy. He smiles, laughs, enjoys other people’s company and actually wants to have a relationship with his son. Now, once again, I’m not sure how much of this is actually true about Coogan himself, or just the version of himself he’s playing here, but it seems almost all too real for him to be fretting on about, without hardly an emotional-connection to be found inside of him.

All that said, it’s Coogan who is really the one to watch in this movie. Sure, he and Brydon are hilarious together and a certain bit about the later killing the former had me practically in stitches, but it’s when these guys drop the facade for a short while, talk about life, exchange ideas and get to know what it’s like to “be friends”, that really stuck a chord with me. They’re funny guys, but they’re still guys nonetheless and they deserved to be seen as such.

Roger Moore impressions and all.

Consensus: Funny, heartfelt, and exquisitely shot, the Trip to Italy proves that Brydon, Coogan, and Winterbottom could continue at this story for decades and it will almost never fail. Just so long as the laughs are there, and the melancholy can still be found.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Strike a pose. Be old. Make me cry.

Strike a pose. Be old. Make me laugh. Make me cry.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The One I Love (2014)

Every couple needs a little bit of a spicing up here and there. Just don’t over-do it.

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are a couple who has come to a stand-still; they love each other, want to stay together and maybe even start a family, but they’re just too messy and broken right now to really feel like they can go any further. That’s why when their therapist (Ted Danson) recommends spending some time at this little retreat of his that he gives to all his patients, they can’t help but jump right right at the idea. After all, a little time alone and with nobody else is maybe all they actually need. So when they do get there and realize everything is exactly as promised, they have a whole bunch of fun: They cook, smoke pot, drink, eat, have sex, tell jokes and even get a bit sentimental towards one another. However, one day, while rummaging throughout the retreat’s guest-house, they realize that something strange is going on and it not only affects them now, at this moment in their lives, but for what could be the rest of their time as a couple. Or, at least what’s left of it, that is.

So yeah, I’m beating around the bush an awful ton with that synopsis there and that’s sort of the problem right away with reviewing, hell, even talking about this movie: You don’t want to spoil it for others. And usually, yeah, people say that and they either: 1) spoil the whole thing, all free-nilly, or 2) they spoil the most obvious plot-points of the whole movie like, it “all ends up being a dream”, or “Bruce Willis is actually a ghost”, or other stuff like that.

How I'd like to imagine Mark Duplass spends most of his days. While still being naturally charming as hell. Damn him.

How I’d like to imagine Mark Duplass spends most of his days. While still being naturally charming as hell. Damn him.

Either way, you catch my drift. But that’s why the One I Love is so different; not just in terms of the quality of the movie itself, but because you can’t really even hint at what this movie’s about, because it comes as such a shock.

Take me and my experience with this movie for instance; before hearing about this and deciding to give it a shot, I checked out the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis for this and it read something like, “A failing couple spends a week at a retreat to bring back the love into their relationship”. Again, that is not exactly word-for-word what the synopsis said and because this was quite some time ago when I checked it out/saw the movie, clearly, things have changed and more people are talking about this movie and even, as predicted, giving some small hints here and there away about what’s really up with this movie.

But to be honest, don’t even read any of those other reviews, no matter how talented or beloved the writer may be (except me of course, so stay put!); they’re only going to give you more impressions/expectations of what to expect, and it totally defeats the purpose of small, yet surprising movies such as this. We mostly hear about them through the grapevine, in which some cool, hip and rad person will say, “Hey, did you see that new indie with Mark Duplass, brah?”, presumably right after taking a swig of an ironic PBR. And while most people will probably either give a flat-out, “No.”, or just ignore this person and put them back in their corner, the fact is this: That person, as annoying as they may be in whatever normal discussions about life, love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, still threw that idea into your head.

This may even get you to think, “Oh shit. There’s a new Mark Duplass movie out?”, and from then on, you will know that there’s a new movie with Mark Duplass out and you’ll want to possibly check it out, if the time in your hectic schedule ever clears up. That’s how, back in the day at least, most indies survived and were actually seen by people – nowadays, anybody can talk about a certain movie, no matter how small or obscure it may be, and it can reach millions, upon millions of people that may have the same interests in Mark Duplass movies as you (and yes, the only reason I’m saying Mark Duplass instead of the far-more well-known Elisabeth Moss is because referencing Mark Duplass in an everyday conversation just gives you the impression of how “small” a movie he’s involved with actually is).

And you, Ms. Moss. I can't even start.

And you, Ms. Moss. I can’t even start…..

And honestly, I have no problem with that – all films deserved to be known about, discussed, passed onto others, etc. That’s what film was invented for in the first place (not just for money, hookers, and coke, because Hollywood), and that’s how I’d like to imagine the rest of the movie world will continue to be like. However, there are certain instances in which there comes a point you need to stop talking about a movie, if only to not just spoil the fun for everyone else. This is that type of movie and as much as I may annoyingly be harping on it, please do not read other reviews of this.

Instead, just know that Duplass and Moss are great in this movie and show that they are able to stretch their acting-abilities further and further than what we originally see of them. Just know that the movie may not be the most perfect flick to take your significant other out to see, only because it will bring out the worst kinds of discussions between you two during the ride home. Just know that while the movie does have a few neat tricks here and there up its sleeves, it is not by any means, perfect and does get a bit messy when it tries to explain what it’s really supposed to be about. And lastly, just know that it’s good and that you should see it, if only because you want curiosity to murder that cat and give you some sort of relief that yes, you had finally seen that “new indie with Mark Duplass”.

Brah.

Consensus: Tricky and imperfect, the One I Love is a rather unique take on a story we’ve seen done a hundred times before that both brings up questions about relationships, and gives Duplass and Moss plenty to do and entertain us with.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Put 'em together, they're the perfect couple. But are they.......? Tune in next week!

Put ‘em together, they’re the perfect couple! But are they…….? Tune in next week!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

If I Stay (2014)

It’s Ghost, but with no Swayze. Points already deducted.

Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz), her mother (Mireille Enos), her father (Joshua Leonard), and her little bro (Jakob Davies) all go out for a trip during a snow day. What starts off as promising day, suddenly turns to tragedy when they are all involved in a very serious car accident, leaving all four of them in critical condition. However, Mia ends up having an out-of-body experience where she’s not able to actually get into any contact with those around her, but is still able to see and hear every little thing. She doesn’t know whether she’s going to die or not, but she puts up no matter what and decides that it’s best to reflect on what got her here in the first place, and those who matter enough that she’d want to be alive for them. One person in particular is her indie-rockin’ ex-boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley) who she’s had a rough history with, but realizes that she loves and wants to spend more time with. All she has to do is fight, or something like that.

Every once and awhile, there comes a movie that totally blinds me by surprise. Not because it’s amazing or downright Earth-shattering that it makes me re-think my love for movies, as well as my whole life leading up to seeing it – nope, it’s because a movie that I didn’t expect to like in the least bit, let alone go into already hating, does something and that’s “has an effect on me”. Once again, I’m not saying that If I Stay is the one movie this year, so far, that’s made me think about those who are in my life, or has forced me to listen to the National for a whole week – I’m saying that it’s a movie I dreaded going into and about ten minutes realized that, “Oh shit, this is gonna be good.”

Parents are weird. Especially when your dad's supposed to be dead in real life.

Parents are weird. Especially when your dad’s supposed to be dead in real life.

With the incredible amount of movies I see (all good, bad, new and old), this so rarely often happens. But when your movie is another, run-of-the-mill young adult adaptation, especially when that’s coming a month or two after the Fault In Our Stars, then me actually liking, let alone, enjoying something along the same lines is downright unbelievable. In fact, if you had come up to me about a month or two ago, slapped me on the back and told me that, believe it or not, “I’d actually like this new Chloë Grace Moretz-starring young adult tale in which she plays a dying girl vowing for her love”, then I would have not only called you crazy and beat you up, but I would have probably acted like I never met you in my whole life.

But, here we are: A movie seen, a few friendships broken and more than a few assault charges added to personal record, and I actually liked If I Stay.

And what surprises me more now than ever before, isn’t that I actually liked it, but I seem to be the only one who actually does give a hoot about its existence. Sure, the audience who this is clearly made for in mind will absolutely run to the hills and then some just to see this, but for the critics and “professionals” of the movie world out there, I’m surprised by the lack of any love for this movie. That’s not me saying that every person, professional or not, should agree with whatever my opinion on a movie is, or isn’t, but it’s surprising to me on this occasion, that not only do I end up being the ultimate super fan for something I didn’t even care for seeing in the first place, but that I actually find myself wanting to tell others to check it out, even if they were in the same frame of mind I was going into it.

Typically, I would only go to one of these flicks if I had nothing else better to do, or if I was trying to impress with a girl with something other than my masculine body, but here I was, sitting in a room full of sappy teenage girls who were just looking for a cry, and the old dudes that probably were, too, but I won’t even bother going deep into that. But see, while they were all expecting a good cry, I was just expecting something that would have me laughing my ass off non-stop at all of the ultra-serious moments and, as a result, get an awful bunch of glares from those around me.

However, that didn’t happen. In fact, dare I say it, I actually joined the rest of the crowd in the tearing-up because, for what it’s worth, this is what happens when sap is done right. You can tell that throughout this whole movie, director R. J. Cutler is just pulling and peeling away at our souls in such an overly-manipulative, cloying way, but it somehow got me. Most of that has to do with the fact that when Cutler has to give us these small, bare moments of actual human connection and insight, he delivers. He doesn’t try to over-do the fact that these two teens in the middle of this love are ill-matched for each other in the first place – instead, he just lets it tell itself, with a few flashbacks to Mia herself running around, yelling at people, and being upset about everything that’s happened to her, those she loves and what is waiting for her if she ever wakes the hell up.

Actually, that was probably the worst aspect for me with this movie. Not only did it feel like a kid version of Ghost (hence the joke up above), but it’s rule are never made clear to us. Can Mia herself actually physically make herself come alive? Or, is she just supposed to stand around, yelling at those who clearly can’t hear/see her, and just wait to see how the whole medical procedure plays out? It was never made clear to us and although you could make an argument that the movie wasn’t trying to focus on this as much as they were with the characters and their relationships with one another, I would also argue right back and say then don’t even have the whole angle included in the first place. Just have her in some strange after-life sequence that lasts all of five minutes, have it all happen at the end, and get us to the point of what it’s trying to say.

It would have been a whole lot simpler, but since it was done in the book, I guess it makes sense to do it here. Although there is definitely a thing such as, “Sometimes what reads well on paper, doesn’t always play out so well on film”. Don’t know who said that or when, all I know is that it’s a saying and it’s one I live by for all these novel adaptations.

Anyway, back to the good stuff about this movie. What it does do so well is that it presents us with a believable, relatively likable relationship that makes you want both sides to be together and happy in the end. However, it doesn’t start off that way, because when we’re introduced to Mia, we get the idea that she’s a band weenie that enjoys Bach, Mozart and all that classical stuff that’s made for old people and rich, snobby teenagers, so when she and this Adam dude meet and he’s automatically attracted to her and making all sorts of moves on her, it’s a bit too sudden and not entirely understandable. He says that the reason he noticed her in the first place was because how she played the cello, was with exact precision and passion, something that he clearly wants in his life. Or something like that. Honestly, people, I don’t remember, nor do I know. All I do know is that it was stupid.

"Clear out! Ghost coming through!"

“Clear out! Ghost coming through!”

That’s why after awhile, when we do begin to believe in these two as a couple, it’s surprising, and a delightful one at that. Moretz and Blackley are charming personalities in their own rights, but together, they have a solid chemistry that feels all full of love and sympathy, even if they don’t always see eye-to-eye on every decision the other makes. They’re a typical couple and because of that, they’re worth fighting for when all seems to go bad for Mia.

And speaking of Mia, the character, she really is a nice launching-pad for Moretz to prove that she truly is a young and bright talent to look out for. Sure, she’s gotten plenty of chances in the past to prove that she’s got what it takes to be the next Mandy Moore, or even Lindsay Lohan (neither roads end well, but you get my point), but with a performance like this, I see something of a Jena Malone. She’s cute and definitely has a certain amount of sex-appeal to the way she makes herself look, but she’s too smart and wise to get carried down by all that sappy bullshit mostly connected to stuff like high school, or love, or anything like that. Moretz definitely has an even brighter future ahead of her and now that she seems to finally be growing into her own woman, I can’t wait to see what she planned next.

But like I was saying before, because they’re a believable couple, there’s a feeling of romance in the air, but it’s the sweet and tender kind that you can only find in a romance-melodrama about two kids on the verge of graduating high school, where anything and everything seems possible. I too once was in this same position and while it didn’t quite work out well for me, it was nice to see it play out once again in front of my eyes, but this time, with something feeling of honesty that wasn’t made just to ensure that the audience would sob their guts out in the end. It’s made to have us remember the young love we may have once felt in our lives and remember that life, no matter whose, is precious.

And just like that, the sappiness got me.

Those meddling kids.

Consensus: With most of its faults lying in the gimmick it presents, If I Stay can be a bit messy, but when it wants to deliver some heartfelt, emotional scenes of young love, and people in love in general, it works well. And clearly not just for its target audience, either.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Nothing says "millennial teen-romance" quite like a shot of people talking selfies.

Nothing says “millennial teen-romance” quite like a shot of people talking selfies.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Under the Skin (2014)

Yes, there is such a thing as “sexy aliens”.

An alien (Scarlett Johansson) takes over the body of a sexy, young-ish looking thing and carries out a cryptic message from the powers that be up above. Although the message is not made clear, it seems like she is to find random, lonely men on the streets of Scotland, take them back to an isolated place, and tease them with sex, yet, at the same time, have these poor guys sucked into whatever gelatin-like substance that turns them into something that’s clearly not human. The alien is also followed by a dude on a motorcycle who keeps track of the things she does, as well as to whom, but begins to grow suspicious when she gets something of a conscious. That, or the fact that she’s noticed what the real world is like and doesn’t just want to be an alien anymore, but more human than human. If that’s even possible, that is.

If you’re confused by that synopsis right there, don’t worry, because I am too and I wrote the damn thing! However, I think that’s the first element that needs to be said about this movie: Don’t expect to know much of anything that’s going on. If you can do that and are fine with that, then this movie will be something of a strange, yet delightful treat; if you can’t, however, it may be a bit of stretch. Not just for you to stay awake and continue to give this a chance, but for your mind because this thing will surely do a number on it, as it did to mine.

I guess it’s worth noting that director Jonathan Glazer has been trying to get this movie made for a total of nine years, and whatever those reasons may have been behind the constant delays in filming, seem somewhat reasonable. This movie is definitely not an easy one to get involved with, let alone fund in hopes of more money coming back, but it gets away with being just what it is. Which is, essentially, Glazer’s insane, but beautiful mind at work.

At least we know she enjoys long walks on the beach. That's one thing we know about her.

At least we know one thing about her: She likes long walks on the beach.

Some of the things he does in this movie are incredibly stunning to look at, but not because it’s anything weird, per se; it’s more because you can never tell what sort of style Glazer himself is incorporating into this film. The story sort of comes second to whatever visual imagery Glazer wants to create and because of that, we have a movie that’s not only gorgeous, but rather large in scope of what it wants to talk about, or where it wants to go. Once again, the movie never makes itself clear about what it’s showing us and why, but that’s not the point; the point is to see what Glazer can bring to the screen and how he’s able to entrance us.

Now, that’s not to say the story doesn’t exist, nor is it not a very compelling one; in fact, it’s downright terrifying at times, but for the whole sake that it’s confusing and never wholly clear. But it is to say that Glazer wants to give us a feeling that even though the film takes place on planet Earth (in Scotland to be exact), it isn’t necessarily easily understandable, nor is it a movie that wants to connect with us. It wants to freak us out, get under our skin, and continuously shock us by bringing whatever sort of crazy imagery Glazer himself has to bring to our eyes. Some of it’s pretty, and some of it’s downright disturbing – but it’s all shocking, in the best ways possible.

That last sentence could actually apply to Scarlett Johansson as well who, for most of the movie, seems like she herself is transfixed in some sort of daze that when she wakes up, snaps out of it and has to be charming, it’s impressive-as-hell and makes you want to slap all of the nay-sayers who have been questioning her talents as an actress since day one. Now, if you don’t already know something about this movie, it’s that ScarJo actually drove a truck around Scotland, picked up random strangers off the street, drove them around, talked to them and had it all filmed, with her character’s persona totally in tact. It’s a odd element of Borat that this movie has, but it works so well because it makes you question just how far Glazer and co. were willing to go with this device, and just what each and every person they talked to was going to bring to the table.

But the one who really comes out on top of it all is Johansson herself, as she’s able to not only have us all hot, sweaty and bothered by being in her presence, but also be absolutely petrified of what she is going to do next and to whom. Her character goes unnamed and because of that, she stays a complete mysterious to us the whole entire time. And I definitely like to think that Glazer preferred it this way, rather than giving us the impression that we know this character and can easily spell her out from the very beginning.

In fact, you could even say that about the whole movie, really. To see a something that doesn’t really give a crap about keeping up with story or any certain agenda for that matter, is quite refreshing for someone like me. Sure, I would have definitely loved this movie more if the third-act didn’t topple over itself once it decided that it wanted to take its character seriously and have her seem more like a “human”, but that didn’t bother me as much as it just made me think more about this movie and what message Glazer was trying to convey with it. Is he trying to show us that “being human”, isn’t just about looking like so and being a normal, everyday citizen? Or, is it about what’s really on the inside of a person that counts and makes us an actual living, breathing, and sexxing human being?

Yep, don't even ask.

Yep, don’t even ask.

Both questions deserve to be brought up, especially when watching something as unique and mind-boggling as this, but a part of me feels like I’m just looking into something a lot deeper than I should be. That’s not to say if I went up to Glazer in real life and started having a discussion with him about this movie and my thoughts/ideas about it, that he wouldn’t welcome them because this is the kind of movie that invites analysis from various view-points. However, another part of me just believes that I want to dig deeper and deeper into this movie so that I can feel “smarter” than the rest of the bunch that may have seen this and left utterly confused. Not just with the movies, but with their own lives in general.

But anyway, I digress before I get completely off-track: This movie’s something else, and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s surprising in the certain places it goes and how Glazer makes his story seem like anything could happen, and there’d be no problem with that whatsoever. When you’re a film maker that’s made it clear your story could take place in any universe, then the whole landscape is your playing field and it was an absolute treat to see Glazer constantly play with whatever tools he had at his disposal. I may make the movie seem more “fun”, than what it would present itself as being through its advertising, but there’s a certain element of that to be felt in here; you don’t fully know what to expect next from anything here and there’s something entertaining about that.

If only more movies were like that, we’d probably be in a much better place altogether.

Consensus: While sometimes bordering on being incoherent, Under the Skin isn’t about its story, or whatever message it’s trying to get across, it’s about how far Jonathan Glazer is able to go with the look, the feel and the pulse of his movie, while we just sit back, relax, and try to enjoy it for as much, or for as long as we can.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Alien or not, I'll follow her anywhere.

Alien or not, I’d follow her anywhere.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)

Hey, if torture can work for Jack Bauer, it can work for anyone! Right, guys? Guys?…….

Late one fateful night, an Afghan taxi driver by the name of Dilawar picks up a passenger and isn’t ever seen again by his friends or his family. Reason being? He killed himself while being imprisoned inside the Parwan Detention Facility where he was questioned by American soldiers. However, did these soldiers do more than just questioning Dilawar? Did they rough him up a bit to ensure that they’d get the answer they wanted? Or, did they do a whole lot more than just “roughing up a bit”? And even if they did do that, would they even be in trouble? Documentarian Alex Gibney examines the story of Dilawar, those who were charged in his brutal treatment at the detention center and how so many other Afghan prisoners were taken in on a daily basis, with little to no reason other than they may have information regarding Osama Bin Laden, or other known terrorists at the time.

What’s so interesting about what Gibney does here, is that while he does go all over the place, focusing on the whole picture of what’s really going on here, from the beginning of the war, to Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush themselves, he never loses sight of what really made this story possible in the first place: Dilawar and what happened to him. Because deep inside of all of the numerous threads explored here, no matter how distasteful some of these truths unearthed may have you feel, no matter how enraged you may be by the end, there’s something completely and utterly depressing about Dilawar, his story and how he met the end of his life.

At least he's got a fresh-ass shirt on him now...

At least he’s got a fresh-ass shirt on him now…

See, with Dilawar’s story, we realize that he, along with so many other detainees in these detention centers, is just a normal, everyday citizen, as if he were you or I. However, the only thing separating him from us is that he was an Afghan citizen and at that point in time, the U.S. Army wasn’t taking any chances one bit and was just picking up each and every person they found to be even the slightest suspicious of being a possible terrorist. Didn’t matter if it was true or not, the Army needed to bring people in, torture the hell out of them, and see if they could get any possible answers out of them whatsoever.

Dilawar just so happened to be one of those people and he met his end in such a sad, brutal way because of so.

His story is the launching-off point for what Gibney wants to talk about and explore, and it’s deserving. Not because everything about Dilawar’s story is what helps Gibney come back to some sort of human-connection when all is said and done and he gets off of his soap box, but because it shows us that Dilawar was like every other captive inside one of these detention centers. Sure, there were definitely a few whose suspicions turned out to be actually true, but you have to think of how few that number is, compared to all of those who were taken in, brutally tortured, humiliated, made out to be “less than human”,  and even died in the custody of the U.S. Army.

And trust me, this isn’t just going to be a whole post of me attacking the U.S. Army for all their immoral-doings in the war; in fact, I’ll give most of them the benefit of the doubt. They’re all doing a job that I would never be able to bring myself to in my life and because of that, I give them a salute. However, there is something to be said for when those soldiers take advantage of the certain amount/level of power they have. It’s like what was discussed in the Invisible War (a documentary you must see, if you haven’t already done so) – does being a soldier for the Army and protecting your country mean that you can practically get away with anything that would be deemed “illegal” if you were still living in your country and not on the battlefield?

The answer to that is clearly no and Gibney knows this. However, he doesn’t give us any easy answers to make it clear exactly what he’s thinking, or even what he’s trying to say at any given moment. He easily could have made this a whole two hours of just him getting on everything that has to do with the Army; those who enlisted into it, as well as those powerful politicians who back it up with all their might, but he doesn’t. He keeps everything away at a relatively minor distance that’s hardly ever over-stepped, even though it could have easily been.

Tsk tsk.

Tsk tsk.

But like I was saying before, with this movie, Gibney reminds us what it’s like to be and stay human, even in the times of war. It made sense for most of the country to go absolutely and completely gung-ho about violence right as soon as the World Trade Center was attacked, but does that really mean we as a country are justified in acting the way we did, or hell, still do act? We’re paranoid for a reason, but does that really mean that we have to unreasonably make others pay for our thoughts and perceptions, regardless of if they turn out to be wrong?

Like every other question posed here in this movie, Gibney never gives a clear answer. Sometimes that’s a bit frustrating; other times, it’s comforting because so many documentarians feel the need to take a stance on a certain topic, without ever giving us a full, rounded-out story of everything we are being told. Here, we get to listen and learn from just about everybody who was involved with these detention centers and, after awhile, begin to realize that they too are just like you or I – normal, everyday human citizens. However, the only problem was that they were the ones with all the guns, the power, and the control to do anything that they wanted, when they wanted.

And Dilawar was the one who had to pay for it all. Although there are still plenty more where he came from and there shouldn’t be.

Consensus: Presenting as much facts as possible without over-cramming his movie, or our brains, Alex Gibney allows for Taxi to the Dark Side to be a thoughtful, mostly upsetting documentary about all those involved with the war and how all societies are affected by it.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

At least they held the sign up for him.

At least they held the sign up for him.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

What Richard Did (2013)

This Richard fella sure does like to do a lot of “things”.

Richard Karlsen (Jack Reynor) is the golden boy athlete who seems to have it all. Good looks, good parents, plenty of money, actual talent in rugby, and a very bright future ahead of him. However, there’s some quite dark lying inside of Richard that he doesn’t let everybody know about, but instead, just bottles it up all in. For some, that can work, but for others, it can’t – consider Richard in that later group. But the good thing for Richard is that he meets an out-of-towner named Lara (Róisín Murphy) who he ends up falling in love with. Problem with it though, is that he eventually begins to grow jealous of her and the numerous looks she’s getting from various men around her. Richard takes notice of this and one drunken night, it all comes to ahead when something very tragic occurs and he, as well as his lads, are left without any idea of knowing what to do next. Because, after all, they’re just teenagers and teenagers don’t always make the right decisions, especially when their futures are held in the balance.

So yeah, obviously from just reading that title, seeing that poster and reading that synopsis, we know that Richard does something that’s not too kind. However, in order to avoid from totally spoiling it all for you out there, I’ll just beat around the bush and not say what he does; even though it doesn’t really matter. Sure, there is an element of surprise here as to finding out what Richard does in fact do, but that’s not the main aspect this movie pays attention to the most.

Richard likes to cozy-up next to his girlfriend.....

Richard likes to cozy-up next to his girlfriend…..

See, what director Lenny Abrahamson does so well here is that he doesn’t just focus on what it is that Richard does to others around him, he pays more attention to the person of Richard, what makes him who he is and why he does the things he does to those around. His actions make him who he is, but there’s also a certain layer we get to watch and study delicately that not only gives us a glimpse into what he is thinking, at any given moment, but how he feels about what he’s thinking. Because, to be honest, Richard doesn’t always do/say the right thing, and rather than making him a detestable human being for doing such, the movie keeps us a couple of steps away from him so that we don’t judge him too harshly.

One could say that Abrahamson’s trying to have us sympathize for somebody who, for lack of a better term, is a bit of a dick, but you could also say that there isn’t really a stance Abrahamson takes with this character, or this whole movie for that matter. We just sit back and view Richard for what he is – questionable morals and all. And since Richard is such a challenging character to not only like, but watch, it makes the task all the more challenging for somebody like Jack Reynor, a relative new-comer at the time, to really pull it all off without over-doing it.

And somehow too, he’s a revelation to watch on screen. But it’s not that Reynor over-does it here with his acting; he’s actually quite subtle. Sure, the script and the direction calls on him to be so, but there are so many times that the camera just stays still straight on his face, as he watches those around him, or staring into space, and we’re left thinking, “What the hell is going on inside his damn head?” He always looks pissed and, in a way, slightly disappointed; disappointed with his life at the present, with his future, the fact that he doesn’t have the dream girl he oh so desires, his mates, we don’t know. It’s all pretty much a mystery to figure it out and that’s why Reynor’s performance is so great here – he keeps us guessing the whole entire time.

Which, for a young, sterling cat like Reynor, may not have been an easy job on his part. Without saying much at all, he’s given the task of just letting his facial-expressions do the talking at any given moment, but the guy handles it effortlessly, as if he’s been doing this his whole life. It’s nice to see that the U.S. has finally picked up on this kid’s talent and actually throw him in some movies. However, it’s such a shame that some of those movies happen to include pieces of junk like Delivery Man and, probably far more-known, Transformers: Age of Extinction.

That damn Michael Bay, man. He snatches up the talent as soon as they’re hot and ready and ruins them for the rest of us.

Bastard.

..Richard even likes to talk to his daddy....

..Richard even likes to talk to his daddy….

Anyway, like I was saying earlier about this character of Richard – while Reynor is superb as him, it’s really Abrahamson and writer Malcolm Campbell who deserve the credit here. Like I said before, they give us an unsympathetic character, and don’t necessarily judge him; they simply present his story to us and allow us to make up our own minds about what decision of his is a good one, and a bad one. Better yet, it allows us to draw conclusions as to what really makes this guy, the guy we see at parties, just glaring blankly at the scenery at him. Is he sad? And if so, why? What’s he going to do about it? Hell, who is he going to do it to? So many questions are left up to us to figure out on our own and it can sometimes be enraging, but mostly, it’s just a challenge we ourselves have to think about long and hard.

That’s why the movie doesn’t always work, because while it doesn’t want to give away every answer, to every question it brings up, it still wants to keep on adding more and more fuel to the fire, almost to the point of where it seems like overkill. Sure, that’s not so bad if you have a rather large, ambitious movie, filled to the brim with numerous story-lines, going around all over the place, but when you have a small, hour-and-twenty-minute character-study, it does seem to be a bit of a selfish move. A selfish move not to give us a little more tokens for paying attention to certain things, but also because it just keeps on bring more to everything it wants to do. Maybe I’m just nit-picking and making problems that aren’t even there in the first place, but for me, I wanted just a bit more. A bit more of Richard, his back-story and just why he was such an angry bloke pretty much all of the time. I guess it’s something I’ll have to live with never fully finding out about.

Oh well.

That damn Michael Bay, though.

Consensus: Featuring an amazing performance from Jack Reynor in the lead titled-role, What Richard Did proves to be both a thought-provoking, as well as a sometimes enraging drama and exploration into the mind of a challenging character.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

...but most of all, Richard enjoys lounging out on the beach. That's what Richard does.

…but most of all, Richard enjoys lounging out on the beach. That’s what Richard does.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Fisher King (1991)

Have to look out for them homeless. They can improv with the best of ‘em.

Shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is at the top of his game; rich, famous, loved by almost everyone, has a few possible TV-deals in the pipeline and does whatever he wants, because he, quite frankly, thinks he’s the man. However, after he incidentally spurs on a caller to commit a killing spree, Jack is absolutely shocked and retreats from the spotlight. Three years later, he isn’t doing so well and is spending most of his time drinking, working in some low-rent, rental video store (it’s the 90’s), and, occasionally, pleases his loving, yet annoyed girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl). That all changes when, late one night in a drunken stooper, Jack is almost killed by a bunch of punk kids who have nothing better to do than pick on homeless people. That is, until he’s saved by a lively, eccentric homeless man with a big imagination who goes by the name Parry (Robin Williams). Though Jack initially doesn’t want anything to do with Parry, he soon realizes that the two may be connected moreso than he could have ever originally imagined and Jack decides to stick with Parry and see if he can turn both of their lives around.

I must say one thing off the bat: This isn’t my first time seeing the Fisher King. It may be the first time seeing it and actually liking it, but overall, it’s maybe my second or third, and from what I can recollect, this movie and I don’t have the best relationship. However though, due to the recent tragic news of the passing of Robin Williams I decided, “What the heck?!? It’s on Netflix for Chrissakes!”

And while I’m not the least bit happy Williams is gone from our screens, as well as our lives, I am happy to see a film of his that reminds us all why he was such a lovable presence to watch in the first place.

"You don't know who I am? I'm the, aw, forget it, man!"

“You don’t know who I am? I’m the, aw, forget it, man!”

That said, Williams isn’t the only good thing here; he’s only one piece to a very large, very strange, and very manic puzzle. The one putting all of those pieces together? Director Terry Gilliam who, if you don’t know already, is a guy who has a rather strange style. Mostly all of his movies, in one way or another, take place in some sort of fantasy-world, however, it’s how he spins those stories to make them not only touch your everyday movie-goer, but even those who don’t really care for his fantasy films, or fantasy films as a whole in general.

That sad-sack person would normally be me, but somehow, that all changed here. Gilliam’s style didn’t bother me here, mostly due to the fact that I was happy to see him take an honest, down-to-Earth story about two people helping one another out, and only using the fantasy-sequences to express what it is that’s going on in one of those particular character’s minds. Therefore, they feel less showwy, as if Gilliam himself can’t wait to show you what a big, brave and creative mind he has in that big ol’ head of his, and more in-tune to what it is that this story is trying to get at here – which is how everybody blocks certain things out of their heads, just so that they can make more room for the happy, pleasing stuff that we don’t harp on as much as we should.

Sounds quite sappy and movie-of-the-week-ish, but taken in the context of this movie and the way Gilliam allows his character’s to speak for themselves, it feels as honest and as raw as any drama out there. Of course, this isn’t just a “drama” through and through; there are plenty of elements of comedy, fantasy, and a psychological thriller tricking on through and while it doesn’t always work, it’s at least a bold move on Gilliam’s part to at least try with it and come out on top, more times than not. Gilliam’s full of plenty of bold moves here, but where he really nails it is in just giving us a simple tale of two people trying to help one another out, and by doing so, helping those out around them as well.

Some Gilliam die-hards may consider this “too weak” or “ordinary”, even by his standards, but I feel like it’s the kind of movie he had to make, just to show us that yes, he has an ounce of humanity inside of his soul and yes, he does know what it’s like to just pay attention to his characters. Sure, the moments where we see mystical creatures roaming the streets of Manhattan may be a tad cool to look at, but they don’t add to much; what does add up to a whole lot are the characters and how we see each and everyone of them grow and continue to do so over the time we spend with them. Time which, mind you, is two-hours-and-20-minutes, yet, breezes by so quickly, you’ll hardly ever notice.

Jeff Bridges has been one of those actors who, it doesn’t seem to matter how many great movies a year he does, he just never gets the love, adoration and notice he wholeheartedly deserves. Sure, he won the Oscar for Crazy Heart some odd years back, but that isn’t anything compared to the kind of work he was putting in some, odd ten/twenty years before. And one of those great performances of his is here as Jack Lucas; a shock jock made in the same vein of Howard Stern, yet, has some level of a conscience that makes him worth being invested in. Because lord knows, if we didn’t at least feel like this Lucas guy had some level of sympathy located in the pit of his stomach, then there’d be no reason for us to really care about his character, his plight, or even what he aspires to do.

It would have just been watching a dick head, try not to be a dick head, even though we know whole well that he’s just that: A dick head.

The perfect date, in the eyes of one Terry Gilliam.

The perfect double-date, in the eyes of one Terry Gilliam.

And even if that is the case, Bridges plays him so well that we do begin to see little shades of who he really is start to come out and it’s hardly ever tacked-on or unbelievable. There’s a belief in the way Lucas really wants to help out those around him who deserve it the most, which makes it all the more sad to see what happens to him when he realizes that, sometimes, you just have to give up and let others do their own thing and live their own lives. You can go your whole entire existence, trying your near and dear hardest to make those around you feel better as good about themselves as you do about you, but in reality, not everybody wants that. Sometimes, they just want to be left alone to do their own thing and live their own lives, without having to swat a helping hand every second, of everyday.

Which is why, at first, Williams’ Parry seems a whole lot like a bunch of crap that a screenwriter would just cobble up together to make some of us love him automatically, but as time goes on and we start to see and understand more about Parry, who he is, who he was, and why he’s in the state that he’s in now, there’s a certain connection we build with this guy. He’s happy just being him and even though that does mean he constantly smells like garbage and having change thrown at him and his little coffee cup, he doesn’t care. He’s just a guy who wants to keep on living the life and being happy about all of it.

He’s the perfect character for Robin Williams to play and it’s no shock to anyone to find out that he’s great in the role. Say what you will about his whole, joke-a-second-act, when the man was on fire, there was nobody better. Here, as Parry, he gets a chance to not only be his own, manic-self, but even reveal more beneath the facade as well that, believe it or not, does resemble something of a human being. By now, we all know that Williams was capable of acting like a real person, and much less of a wacky and wild wildebeest who could never switch the “off” button, well, on, but to get a chance to see him juggle both aspects of his acting is a testament to the kind of performer he truly was.

And that’s not to discredit anybody else in this film; especially not the ladies of the cast. Amanda Plummer is suitably weird and quirky as the object of Parry’s affection, and Mercedes Ruehl absolutely deserved the Oscar she got for her work here as Anne, Jack’s no-nonsense, yet, incredibly lovely girlfriend – but it’s Williams and the show he’s able to give us that ends up striking the final note, making it the hardest and most felt one.

Exactly how he would have wanted it, too.

Consensus: Gilliam’s direction doesn’t always work, but when he’s paying attention to the cast and the humane story in the middle of the Fisher King, it’s an emotionally satisfying piece.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Go get 'em, tiger."

“Go get ‘em, tiger.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2014)

Age is only a number, you young whippersnappers!

Elaine Stritch was a woman of many talents. She could sing, dance, be funny, make people laugh, give a hell of a show, etc. But her best talent of all, was just being herself. Even if she was a brass, sometimes mean, older lady that usually gave those around her a hell of a hard time, she always gave it her all, no matter what it was she was working on. It could have either been as Jack’s mom on 30 Rock. Or her numerous appearances on Broadway. Or even the recordings she did for songs she sang in the past. No matter what she was doing, Elaine Stritch gave it her all and most of the time, came out on top, even if she had to knock a couple of people down a notch or two, just to prove that she’s the hardest, longest working-lady around.

All up until the day she died in her sleep, which, tragically, happened on the wee hours of July 17, 2014.

It’s hard to review a movie, let alone, a documentary, when the subject called into question has just recently passed away. Something else that makes the task a bit harder is knowing that the documentary is highlighting a certain part in said subject’s life that is not only some of their last months/years alive, but also that at the end, the movie lets it be known to us that the subject plans on retiring in 2015. Or in 2016. Or in 2017. And so on and so forth.

Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!

Usually how I get prepared for writing reviews. Except more make-up, dammit!

That little note at the end shows us all exactly the kind of hard-worker Elaine Stritch truly was, even up until her final days alive, but in order to totally understand that fact about her, you’d have to see this. Because, not only does director Chiemi Karasawa really get us up close and personal with the woman that was Elaine Stritch in front of the camera and her many friends/family, but who she was when the lights were turned on, the curtain dropped, and the show was over, which was a very vulnerable, self-conscious soul that wanted to always make those around her happy and feel pleased with what it is that she’s done for them. Which, when initially watching this flick, you’ll be surprised to see because Elain Stritch was no lovely walk-in-the-park to be around.

That’s not to say she was a terrible person, she was just an unpredictable one that usually controlled whatever conversation she was having, with whomever that person may have been. Such personable celebrities like Tracy Morgan, the late great James Gandolfini (who this film is, oddly enough, dedicated to), Tina Fey and even Alec Baldwin, all come to tell their story of how one Elaine Stritch put them in their place, just upon meeting her for the first time. They also go on to say that she was never afraid to speak her mind and call it like it she saw it, which, in the business that is the movie-making business, is usually more of a fault, than a positive. However, that was the beauty with Stritch, both off and on the screen: She was able to get past it all by just giving the crowd and everyone else exactly what they wanted from her.

She’s like any other performer out there in the world, except she’s not; she’s her own kind of beast that goes by her own rules/ways of doing things, and if you don’t like it, then piss off and find somebody else that can do it nearly as good as her. The problem was, nobody could and that’s why Stritch is truly a talent to be missed.

Now, I do realize that this whole “review”, has turned into being more of a “tribute” to the late, great actress that was Elaine Stritch, but it’s just what can happen when you see a movie about somebody at the end of their road (though not really), and how they continue to live on a day-to-day basis, doing what it is that they want, how they want it, where they want it, and however they want it. And Elaine Stritch do exactly this, is interesting; she’s the type of old lady (although she prefers to use the term “older) that can be cranky and get on people’s case about something meaningful to her, but she isn’t the kind of old lady that’s lost her edge, nor her smarts about the business or how to approach she things. She still sang, performed and sure as hell acted until she called it “quits”, and even then, she couldn’t fully sit down and stay down. She had to get back up, find some work to do and shows the world she’s still got it and never going to throw in the towel.

Watch out before you call her "grand-mom".

Not the one you want to call “grand-ma”.

Of course though, as is the case with life, it all caught up with her, which gets highlighted in this movie very much. Stritch’s many problems with diabetes and alcoholism is explored many of times, showing us that Stritch had many demons deep down inside of her, most of which, she wasn’t willing to let be shared in this movie, until push eventually came to shove. However, the movie doesn’t use this as a way to show us its subject, and make her seem more sympathetic; she doesn’t ask for our sadness, nor do we really want to give it to her. We want her to feel better about life in any way that she can, and because Stritch wants that just as much as we do, it’s pleasing to watch her whenever she’s performing in front of a crowd, regardless of the size of it, or whether or not said performance is to be her last.

Either way, for Elaine Stritch, swan song, or no swan song, the gal continued to go on and didn’t want to sit still. That’s not only a testament to the kind of performer she truly was, but to the old era of Broadway stars that did everything and lived like stars. They were all so very talented, but Stritch in particular was the kind of star that made you wonder: Does age really matter? Because, just as long as you’re able to keep some of your sanity, as well as still being able to be inspired by the thrill of working and performing, then no, it doesn’t. Just live like Elaine Stritch:

Continue to perform and do things, the way you want to do things. Because as long as you give it your all, then everybody’s happy. Most especially yourself.

Consensus: While it certainly takes on a new life, post-death, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is the kind of documentary that not only praises its subject for all the work she’s done throughout her storied-career, but also has us see what it was that really made her the way she was, both in front of, as well as behind, the camera/stage.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You go, Elaine!

You go, Elaine!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Life Itself (2014)

Yup. Two Thumbs Up.

For some people, Roger Ebert was just a guy who watched an awful lot of movies, and said whether or not he liked them by going “thumbs up”, or “thumbs down”. But to others, he was more than just a film critic; he was a man who genuinely loved what it was that he did and found anyway he could to make it better. Whether it was by posting a positive review on a movie that barely anyone had ever heard about, or by just speaking his mind and not backing down from when others went against him, Roger Ebert had opinions and thoughts, and he wasn’t going to back off from speaking his mind and letting the world know about what he thought. Of course though, as with most humans, Roger ran into some problems with his excessive drinking, but soon found happiness in the form of one woman named Chaz, who he falls in love with and gets married too. Right from there on, Roger realizes that there’s more to life than just movies; sometimes, you have to care for others and continue on the legacy of good-tidings. Of course though, he never forgot about the movies. Not even until the day he tragically passed away at the age of 70.

I feel like if you’ve lived long enough, or have at least paid enough attention to movies as a whole, you know a thing or two about Roger Ebert and the type of influence he has on most people who watch movies. And I’m not just talking about the critiques who just about everybody despises, I’m talking about a natural, everyday film-goer. For awhile too, Roger was the premier film critic that everybody paid attention, and actually listened to, regardless of if they fully agreed with his end rating of a movie or not.

And seeing as how I was a big fan of Roger Ebert, his reviews, At the Movies (even throughout its numerous incarnations that didn’t involve Roger himself), and film criticism as a whole, I knew that this was really going to pull at my heart. After all, without Roger Ebert, there probably would have never been a DTMMR to begin with, and thus, there wouldn’t have been an excuse behind all my countless hours of sitting in front of keyboards and screens.

What the hell is that "thing" he's holding in his hand?!?!

What the hell is that “thing” he’s holding in his hand?!?!

But like I said before about this movie, it’s meant to be made for anybody who was ever touched by Roger and what it was that he did and that’s why most of this flick works. Director Steve James knows that most of us connect Roger to At the Movies, with George Siskel of course, which is primarily why he focuses so much time on that aspect of his life. We see how him and Siskel sometimes got along and sometimes didn’t, both on and off the screen. They didn’t hate each other, yet they didn’t love each other either; they were just two guys who loved the absolute hell out of movies, and were never willing to settle for the other’s opinion.

In all honesty, it’s probably the most interesting part of this documentary; in fact, dare I say it, we could have probably had a whole documentary about their beginnings together and how they, with time, eventually got to like one another and be somewhat considered “pals”. There’s true, honest and real human drama in the stories we are told by those closest to the both of them and whenever James puts his focus on them and lets that story play-out, it’s easily what makes this documentary so interesting to watch and listen to. Even if it is apparent that it’s more about their relationship, and less about Roger and his life, it still glues you in to what you hear next, and by whom.

With that said though, it isn’t like every territory James explores that has to do with Roger and his own personal life isn’t interesting at all, it just sort of pales in comparison. However, there’s still plenty of interesting detours James takes with this documentary and with Ebert’s life that makes things more compelling. For instance, James highlights the fact that Ebert was something of a hero to those that made the movies he reviewed. He was more than just a dude who sat in front of a screen, watched something, and then dissected it moments later; he’s like as I’d like to imagine every other film critic, professional or nonprofessional – a man who truly loves his craft and the business in which he works around. And because of that, he would constantly champion certain movies by certain directors, and give those movies more exposure than they could have ever expected before in their lives.

Because, if there was anybody a common, everyday citizen was going to listen to when it came to “what’s good?”, and “what’s not?”, it sure as hell was Roger Ebert. And sure as hell not some 20-something blogger….

But what really hits us hard is when we see these certain stories told to us by the likes of Ramin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay, and even Errol Morris, who show that if it wasn’t for Roger, they would practically have no film career to begin with; Bahrani himself even goes so far as to befriend Ebert and his whole family! This all truly shows you not only the importance of film criticism in general, but what it really does matter for when somebody sees your movie and talks about it. It doesn’t matter if it totally blows, or is the next best thing since Citizen Kane - it’s a film that, for the most part, is worth seeing. It could touch somebody’s life, while not do anything for another. You never know, and that’s why the art of film deserves to exist in a world such as this.

The man truly is a legend. Not once batting an eye while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him right in the face.

Not once batting an eye away from his work while a Marilyn stand-up glares at him in the face. The man truly was a legend.

Like I was saying though, James doesn’t always hit the mark when he’s exploring Ebert’s life and totally forgets to go even deeper into certain parts that I would have liked a little bit more clarification on (most definitely his later-years when he was diagnosed and before he passed away), but it’s the disease itself that James really goes on and on about, in a respectable, but bold manner. He doesn’t shy away from showing us the harsh living conditions Roger, Chaz, and the rest of his family has to live through in order to keep him alive, and he sure as hell doesn’t shy away from showing us just how hard it is for all of them to have to go on with it, day after day, but it’s the reality of the situation as presented to us. I’m sure there were many people out there who had no freakin’ clue at all about how truly painful or serious this illness was and for that, I’d definitely like to commend James. Not only does he highlight those last few months/years for Roger that may have not been the best of his life, but it shows us that he hardly ever gave up on doing what he loved most: Watching and reviewing movies.

For, if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be hardly near as many film critics out there as we have today. And, for better, as well as for worse, we have that to thank him for.

Or better yet, give him a solid thumbs up.

Thank you, Roger.

Consensus: While not a perfect documentary, Life Itself still gives us a glimpse into the life of Roger Ebert who made a career out of speaking his mind, loving what it was that he did and always, I repeat, always making sure that the business in which he worked in continued to get better and better, even after he was long gone. And I think it’s safe to say that, on his part, mission complete.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Only takes one weirdo sitting in the last-row to ruin the whole movie-going experience.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Write this down men: Twenty-something blondes who play the trumpet are bad news.

Recent college-grad Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is working as an intern at a production company and realizes that she needs to make a big change in her life if she wants to be happy at all. Therefore, she decides to break-up with her boyfriend Mike (Mark Duplass) and set her sights possibly on other men; even if those other men just so happen to be her co-workers, Matt (Kent Osborne) and Paul (Andrew Bujalski). Hannah begins one with the later, while the former sort of just sits around, does his work like he’s supposed to be doing and basically be all upset that he’s being left out of the mix. But Hannah’s the type of girl who can’t seem to stick to one thing, regardless of if her life depends on it or not, so you can never tell exactly what she’s going to do next, or with whom either.

It’s a short premise, but at an-hour-and-23-minutes, it’s a short movie, and there’s something inherently charming about all of that. See, writer/director Joe Swanberg likes these small, intimate and rather raw stories about people just living their lives, on a day-to-day basis without all of the schmaltzy, over-dramatic bullshit that we usually see in much-larger, more mainstream movies. Does he do this to save some money and actually be able to make his movies? Sure, you could definitely make that argument. However, there’s something nice and refreshing about a writer/director who likes to create real stories, about real people, doing, well, real things.

Even if one of those “real things” does consist of constantly being shacked-up with whomever is around you.

Oh, Gret.

Oh, Gret.

And yes, that is exactly what Hannah does here. To be honest, the hardest aspect to like about this movie is Hannah herself; she’s self-involved, yet, not overbearingly so. She clearly has a nice conscience and wants to do the right thing for herself and those around her, but when it comes right down to it most of the time, she takes matters into her own hands and doesn’t always fully think things through. Does that make her flawed? Of course it does! But does it also make her somewhat human? Oh, totally!

So with that said, it may be hard to at least accept Hannah as a person you want to watch a movie about, but this isn’t necessarily a movie that’s trying to test your patience. It’s trying to give you a story of a young, sometimes brash and difficult lady that doesn’t know what she wants with life, except just to be happy and feel like she’s working for, or towards, something. Hannah herself doesn’t want to be left behind by the wind and forgotten about – she wants to be remembered, loved, and most of all, happy. Though her ways of making sure that happens are a bit questionable, it’s still interesting to watch because there’s a feeling that this is a real woman we’re watching on screen, and not just figment of a dude’s imagination.

And if she was, she’d be a pretty depressing one, considering that there’s a lot of heartbreak and sadness here, all as a result of her own doing, mind you.

Also, another reason why Hannah is so enthralling to watch is because Greta Gerwig’s an on-screen presence worth paying attention to every second her lovely face is on screen. Which, in the case of this movie, is the whole, damn time. So, if you’re annoyed of Greta Gerwig’s bubbly, warm mug, then this is definitely not something you should bother with. Especially since Swanberg seems to really love focusing in on that mug and watching as each and every emotion she feels, is spelled out on her face. In a way, it can sometimes be annoying by how much zooming-in Swanberg does on not just Gerwig, but on everything else, but I felt like it was something you have to sort of expect with a mumblecore movie, and it’s easy to accept after awhile. Is it uncomfortable to sit around and watch sometimes? Yes, but it’s something that’s easy to get used to once the story actually gets going.

Gerwig does something quite exceptional here in how she’s able to make us see Hannah as a female, rather than a contrivance that Swanberg would have created. She’s more than just a gal who likes to kiss boys and try them out as if they were a new pair of shoes; she’s trying to work towards something. Of course Gerwig’s a lovely presence, but it’s in these spare, raw moments of emotional truth where you really get a sense for who she is, and you sort of feel sympathy for her. Even if she is making a lot of problems for herself, rather than solving them, but that’s who she is. She’s a complicated, confused gal and Gerwig’s great at displaying both sides of Hannah’s personality.

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

That’s not to say that the whole movie just ends up being Gerwig’s show from beginning to end – in fact, quite the opposite. Because this is a story about Hannah and the sorts of men she interacts with in this short time-span in her life, we get to view a different side to her, all depending on the guy she’s gunning for at the point in time. Though he’s displayed quite apparently on the poster, Mark Duplass isn’t in this film as much as you’d like to think and it’s a bit of a shame. The dude’s always a charming presence in anything he shows up in and here, he’s no different. But because the story needs him to be kaput early on, it’s only necessary that we get a small dosage of his charm, and get a chance to see it head-to-head with these two other dudes, Matt and Paul.

Both are pretty charming dudes, but in a nerdy kind of way. But they’re not totally nerdy in that they can’t ever hold a conversation with any normal human being; they’re just sort of the type of guys who have their own set of interests, in their own little circles. Bujalski and Osborne both display enough likability and realism to make it easy to see why they’d be both perfect, and not-so perfect for Hannah’s wants, needs and desires, and it makes you wonder who she’s going to end up with in the end.

Which, like it is in life, is incredibly unpredictable.

Consensus: The constraints in budget and scope may make Hannah Takes the Stairs feel a bit claustrophobic, but for those who can get past that, will realize it’s a heartfelt, emotional and sometimes funny drama about a gal just being herself, while trying to figure out who it is she wants as a mate in her life.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Me. Everyday of my life.

Me. Everyday of my life.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

If any movie theater can allow for this to happen, then perverts are going to be knocking at the door.

Cecilia (Mia Farrow) lives one of the saddest lives you will ever witness a lady of her age living, and it only seems to get worse. Not only is she clinging on to a job that seems like she’s going to be fired from any second now, but her husband (Danny Aiello) is a philandering gambler that thinks every discussion must be solved by either a slap or a hit. Cecilia puts up with this all because, quite frankly, like everybody else during the Great Depression, she had nowhere else to go and was lucky enough to even have a house, a job and a husband. However, life isn’t all that bad for Cecilia once she steps into her local movie theater at least once, or twice, or maybe even three times a day, escaping the harsh reality of the world outside, and just setting her eyes on the fantastical world that these movies create, placing her into something entirely new and imaginative, even if it is only for an hour or so. One movie that Cecilia seems to really be addicted to is this new feature called The Purple Rose of Cairo, so much so that she sees it five times in-a-row. She’s so addicted that even one of the characters, Tom (Jeff Daniels), notices this, walks off the screen, takes her by the hand, exclaims his love for her and whist her away on a journey where they will most likely fall in love and be together, forever. Problem here being that not only is Tom not a real person, but the movie he left is now stopped, without any signs of moving forward, leaving all of the other characters in the movie without a single sense of direction. They just wait, wait and wait some more until Tom comes back to the dull, monotonous life of a movie-screen character, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that anytime soon.

Have no clue why I went so balls to the walls with that synopsis, but once I started typing, I just couldn’t stop. Most of you will understand, and for that, I say thank you, For the ones who don’t understand, then whatever. On with the review!

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

Ah. The older, abusive, Italian-American husband cliche. Never gets old.

This little gem is from the creative mind of Woody Allen who, if you don’t know by now, usually hits big, or misses terribly. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former, then again, that will most likely continue to be more common since he is getting up there in terms of age, and he still continues to make at least one movie a year, if not some other ones on the side. But back in the 80’s, Woody reigned as supreme as he could get with acclaimed hit, after acclaimed hit, and it only got better and better when the 90’s rained in. Here, with this movie, the man not only shows his love for the past, but for the present, and possibly, future of film, while also letting us know that it’s all bullshit in the end.

See, while you don’t expect Woody to throw in a frown here, despite all of the happiness, joy and romanticism on full-display, he somehow does and is able to make it work, feeling as if you are in fact watching a Woody Allen movie. There’s plenty of times where you can tell that his love for film transcends any generation, but more so here because he was born in the 30’s (when this story takes place), and it makes you feel even closer to the story, just as much as he probably does making it. Plenty of the signature Woody wit and charm is to be found in the writing, but the cute feelings of falling in love with someone completely out of the blue is what really resonated with me so well, and this is, might I remind you, coming from the same guy who made Annie Hall, Manhattan, Husbands and Wives and plenty other “love and life suck” movies.

And even though there is a romance at the centerpiece of this movie, you still get the idea that Woody’s using it as a tool to get across his feelings about the art of cinema itself; an art form that will be around forever because it has real human-beings escape the world they live in, but yet, is also filled with so many unrealistic hopes and dreams, that it can sometimes be detrimental to those said human-beings’ minds as they will most likely buy into these visions if they begin to take these lessons of these films to heart. While that does sound terribly bleak and unpleasant, it is, once again, a Woody Allen movie, so you have to sort of expect it nonetheless. But even though it seems like Woody may be against, in some small regards, the form of art that is film, in other larger regards, he embraces it wholeheartedly and fully, letting us know that he’s as happy as banshee to be a filmmaker in a day and age like today; and even more happier and thankful for the ones who have came before him, most likely throwing inspiration his way.

Yet, don’t be fooled by how downbeat I may be selling this flick as, because while it does end on a rather grim note (one that I wasn’t expecting in the slightest bit), there is still a happy idea about movies and what they do to a person, for better and for worse. However, Woody knows that movies are supposed to make people happy, take them into a world, and all while informing them a bit as well, which is exactly what he does here, to ever so great effect, all before ending on a rather sad note. But like I said, it’s expected knowing Woody, the die hard cynic.

If that's Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

If that’s Newsroom Jeff Daniels, he can stay the hell put.

Speaking of this being a Woody Allen film, since this was one made in the 80’s, it only made perfect sense that his gal-pal of that decade, Mia Farrow, would get a lead role in this movie as Cecilia. However, even though Woody did this plenty of times for his next couple movies, it still never felt unnecessary, as if she didn’t deserve all of the favoritism she was getting from his lovable, yet, soon-to-be wandering, eye. Because yes, even though they were going out at the time, Farrow still deserved to be in most of these roles because she’s a very talented actress, making it easy for us to believe that she can play all of these different roles, under the same direction of the same dude she goes to sleep with at night. All of that aside though, Farrow is great here in her role as Cecilia because she really is such a cute little darling, that you hate to see it when she’s sad and depressed about the life that she’s been living. Heck, the only time she ever gets anything remotely close to pleasure or happiness, is when she pays a dime to go see a movie, where she is ultimately thrown into a world unlike any other. This may have a negative effect on her mind, her innocence really makes you forget about all of that nonsense and just be there for her when she finally finds the love of her life, even despite him not being a real person; just a movie character.

Jeff Daniels also does a pretty effective job as this movie character, Tom, because while he’s so naive about his existence, it would be so easy for us to write him-off as “annoying” or “a joke done-to-death”. Like for instance, instead of handing the waiter actual money, he hands him the fake money he has in his pockets from the movie, and doesn’t know why the dude’s reaction is so negative. But Daniels somehow overcomes all of those problems and gives us a really likable guy that we would love to see walk off with Cecilia in his arms at the end, even if it does seem highly unlikely, or even illogical. He also is given another chance to show us another character of his in this same movie, except this time, he’s playing the actor of the character himself: Gil Shepherd. This is where Daniels really shines in showing us a guy that seems like a pretentious dick, but one that also may be a good guy underneath the whole facade of this Hollywood superstar. We never know what type of angle he’s playing though, and that’s when Woody himself comes in and gets all dark and sinister on our asses.

Once again, he’s a die-hard cynic. Don’t forget about that.

Consensus: The Purple Rose of Cairo works as a joyful, pleasant and sweet unabashed love letter to the art of movies, but also works as a symbol of love, showing us that the man still does believe in the feeling’s power, yet, also knows that, like movies, sometimes the reality is harder to chew on than the fictional ideas surrounding it.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The calm before the storm, as they say.

The calm before the storm, as they say.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

That guy pulling you over on the freeway? Yeah, he’s totally high on coke.

Terence McDonough (Nicolas Cage) is not the type of cop you want to mess with. And I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a dangerous dude that will practically throw the book at you if you go past a stop sign and give him lip. Nope, I mean it in the way that he’s as crooked as a squiggly-line, is always perked-up on coke, oxy, heroin, whatever the hell he can find, and never seems to be in the right state of mind. Yeah, he’s that type of cop and the one that nobody wants to be around, nor be on the opposite end of the law with, hence why most of them just stay out of his way and let him do his thing, as insane as it may be. However, all of McDonough’s wild times of drugs, sex, alcohol, hookers, and all sorts of other debauchery finally begins to catch up with him once he has to get involved with the brutal murder of local family. Almost too involved, one could say.

Yes, I know. If any of you are long time readers out there reading this now, you will most likely come to know that I have indeed reviewed this back in the day when it first came out, four years ago. However, times have changed for me and this movie since those years ago, and I’ll tell you exactly what:

1.) For starters, I’ve become more in-tune with what makes a good film, actually considered “good” and all of the other essential parts here and there.

2.) I’ve seen more and more Nicolas Cage performances that I not only like, but came so far as to loving.

3.) I’ve seen more and more Werner Herzog movies, both documentaries and narrative-films that I not only like, but also came so far as to loving.

4.) And last, but sure as hell not least is the fact that I’ve actually seen the original, Abel Ferarra’s Bad Lieutenant, and needless to say, this movie swims laps, and then some, around that one.

"Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!"

Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!”

I know that the original and this remake don’t really share so much in common, except for the general plot-line and a tad bit of the name, but overall, the two flicks seem to have some sort of connection that goes further than just same characters and plot-outlines; it’s more that the flicks show their directors, and their main stars at the peak of their game, with one combination doing better than the other. The one combination that really worked to it’s ability was this movie, and no cheap shots at the original or Harvey Keitel’s penis, but this movie is a lot better and a lot more worth watching, especially if you’re in a happy, average mood. If you’re a deep, dark, depressing, and spiritually-thoughtful mood, then give the original a shot and see how many times you never look at Harvey Keitel the same again.

Where this movie works the best in, is not through its conventional plot, or through the twists and turns it sometimes throws at us, it’s more how the movie paces itself and makes this more than just a standard, police-procedural where we see a cop who’s obviously battling some inner-demons of his own creation, also come to terms with the harsh realities of the world outside of him. Some of those ideas are scattered throughout this movie, but most importantly, it’s a movie that shows one man’s descent from hell, to total purgatory. It’s also about every step he takes closer and closer towards crime and paying-off his debts, he gets further and further away from what makes a person considered “moral” or “good”. Plenty of those discussions come up, but they never seem to be used in a heavy-handed way like we’re used to seeing. Herzog’s better than that and so is Cage.

Together, these two compliment each other a whole lot better the second time on seeing them. With Herzog, everything new, cool, or fun that he brings to this story and the screen, he runs with and never lets anybody, or anything get in the way of it. It doesn’t matter what people are used to seeing with plots like these; if Herzog has an idea in his head that he wants to use, he’s going to use it and you better be happy with it. Sometimes, the decisions he takes are a little goofy, and take away from what the movie’s whole “message” is supposed to be, but they’re never anything too far-out to the point of where I lost any idea of just what I was watching. Despite all of the P-O-V shots from iguanas, alligators, and fishes, the movie still makes sense and builds up to a cohesive, understandable story that’s not hard to follow along with, nor is it any less compelling to watch. You don’t need some slick twist or turns to juice up a story like this, all you need is an interesting enough central character to really keep your eyes glued, and with the character of Terence McDonough, and Nicolas Cage playing him, you couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

Most of you may already know this around, but I’m a Nicolas Cage fan through-and-through. No matter how many bombs the guy has made in the past; no matter how many random chicks he’s dated; and especially, no matter how many times he’s tried to be cool and just hasn’t let it work for him, the guy always gets a pass from me because of those one-in-a-million shots he gets, to where he is able to prove to us that he is indeed not just a talented actor, but one of the best working today. That’s what I love so much about the guy in everything he does, especially in this. He’s insane, nutso, bonkers-as-hell, high all of the time, and is always on the verge of a mental breakdown, whether it be the Nic Cage I’m talking about on-screen or off.

He and Herzog work well with one another because they do things together, that you’d never expect them to be able to pull-off, and do it so successfully.

Don't be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

Don’t be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

For instance, there are plenty of long, tracking-shots where it’s just Nic Cage’s face going through all sorts of emotions, and not a single one of them are here to be put in here. Even with lines like “Keep shooting! His soul’s still dancing!”, or “I’ll kill you all to the break of dawn”, where Cage’s sense of being off-kilter is almost ridiculous, you never lose respect for this character, nor for Cage and his ability as an actor either. Still, you laugh your ass off at him, but also with him as it’s made pretty clear to us that not only does Cage know what type of performance he’s giving, but so does the rest of the cast and crew involved. They are all just there to have a little bit of fun, and watch the master at work.

Once Herzog eventually gets back to filming actual movies with a narrative in force, I hope to see more of Cage get involved with them, because not only does Herzog know what to do with him, but he also allows him to run the show with total faith and trust thrown firmly in the dude’s grasps.

Even though it is totally Cage’s show from start to finish, the supporting cast actually helps him out as well. Eva Mendes is playing it surprisingly straight-laced as his coke-addled, hooker girlfriend that loves him, but also can’t stop whoring around to protect her life for the hell of it; Xzibit is surprisingly intense as the main drug-lord of New Orleans that Terence takes a liking to; Val Kilmer is fun and entertaining to watch, just because he always finds a way to bring out that pitch perfect comedic-timing of his; it’s always a joy to see Fairuza Balk back on the big-screen, especially with her supporting some pretty fine, sexy lingerie; and even Brad Dourif gets to have some fun as the exasperated bookie who just wants his freakin’ money, man!

Overall, everybody’s good, but it’s Nic Cage’s show, and you can’t ever fuck with that.

Consensus: Though it’s a very odd, very strange experience to go through, Herzog, Cage, and the rest of the cast and crew keep Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans surprisingly grounded in a sense of emotional-reality where drugs is more than just a reliance for people; it’s practically life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider."

“Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Dreamers (2004)

Three’s always a better party.

American university student Matthew (Michael Pitt) arrives in Paris during the year 1968, having no clue what to do with himself. However, he loves movies and he’s young at heart, so he ends up going the local theaters, as well as to whatever protests the young kids are holding around there. That’s where Matthew runs into the wild and blissful Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), twins that do everything together (and I do mean everything). Being that they’re all the same age and have the same interests in music, food and movies, they both take a liking to Matthew and invite him over for a dinner that goes sour. However, Matt stays the night over and the next day, finds out that both Theo and Isabelle’s parents are gone, leaving the house all to themselves where they can do whatever the hell it is they want. Predictably, this leads to a lot rough-housing and misbehaving, but things get a bit serious once Matthew loses a game of “Guess Which Movie” and is forced to have sex with Isabelle; something he obviously wants to do, but not in front of her brother, and definitely not nearly as soon either. But he does, and that’s when things get a bit tense between the three.

You have to hand it to Bernardo Bertolucci, the dude sure does love his sex. But also, he sure does love movies. And in a smart way, he’s able to combine them both here into one story that’s a love-triangle of sorts; one that’s an ode to movies as a whole; and another that has something to say about the changing of times during this French New Wave period. To be honest, though his intentions are noble, Bertolucci’s combination doesn’t always work and you sometimes have to wonder how much of this movie-talk actually pertains to the story itself, but there’s something neat that he does with this film.

"Yeah, I think that's exactly where the cold sore is."

“Yeah, I think that’s exactly where the cold sore is.”

See, a lot has been made about it’s NC-17 rating and to be honest, it’s quite deserved. The sex itself isn’t too graphic to where it’s practically a hardcore porno, but it’s all the nudity that gets the rating. For a good portion of this movie, these characters are naked and just absolutely flaunting whatever they’ve got, while they’re dancing, talking about movies, smoking a joint, drinking wine, listening to music, or just doing whatever the hell it is that they want to do. Why is that? Well, it’s because they’re young and it’s the dawn of the French sexual age in which practically everybody banged everybody, they all had a fun time doing so, and nobody cared either way.

And while for most movies, that aspect would seem forced, as if the creator behind it was just trying to shock you by featuring numerous shots of pubic hair and penises, not here. Bertolucci loves what it is that he has on display here, whether it be the characters, the movie’s they’re referencing and sometimes acting out, or just whatever political ideals they express to one another. Sometimes it can be a bit pretentious, but I was able to give it a slide because that’s just who these characters were: Young, full of ideas, always wanting to have a good time, and not waste a single second of their lives.

To me, it was fun to watch. Not because I got to see Eva Green naked on numerous occasions (although that was definitely something of a plus), but because these kids were fun to be around. Even though they felt like they were deeper than they really were, there was something rather endearing about the way they handled themselves regardless of what it was they were doing. Sure, they could be lying naked on the ground, or all huddled together in the tub or something, but it never seemed to bore me. Maybe it was because their constant-references of classic films gave the film-buff inside of me an extra, energized boost, or maybe it was because I was just enjoying hanging around these kids, as if they were my own friends I’d be around (presumably with clothes off, of course).

But either way, they were just characters I liked to watch and listen to. It didn’t matter if they were up their own asses on whatever they thought was “right” or “wrong” for the world, it was more that they had ideas about the world in general and were willing to express them with such passion and frivolity. They weren’t going to back down from any argument, even if they seem destined to lose it and because I too was once in their shoes (still am, sort of), I couldn’t help but smile. They’re not dumb, but they’re not smart either; they’re just young people, man.

And believe it or not, they’re the future. So don’t piss them off, pops!

Speaking of these kids, all three are great. Previously mentioned Green gets to do a whole lot with her female screen-presence, which is more than just being naked and it’s something of a sight to see, because she commands the screen with everything she’s got. Her character isn’t an easy one to pin down and when you start to see that there’s more to the mystery that surrounds her, you start to feel for this character as, at the end of the day, she’s just a woman looking for a love in her life. And although that love in her life may be her jealousy-ridden brother, Louis Garrel still brings out enough in this Theo character to make it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy; he’s just very passionate about what it is that he believes. Pretty much like most young people really.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I've had with the older bro's of the gals I've bedded. Only slightly.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I’ve had with the older bro’s of the gals I’ve bedded. Only slightly.

But the one who really does something with his character and almost walks away with this movie is Michael Pitt as Matthew. Pitt’s great here because he goes from awkward and shy, to being an absolute lovely, spirited presence that soaks up in the moment and actually has a thing or two on his mind that he’d like to get. In fact, by the end, he ends up being the voice of reason and had this movie gone deeper into that aspect, I feel like we could have really gotten a stronger character here. Even more importantly, maybe even a stronger movie.

Because like what I was blabbering on about earlier, not all of this film works; specifically, what point it is that Bertolucci is trying to get across through these characters, their ideas, their speeches and most importantly, what’s happening all around them. What he tries to do is that I think he tries to get a point across about why it’s important that these kids stick up for what they believe in and how they should go about doing so, whether it be through a peaceful or non-peaceful protest, and while it’s nice to see him shed some light on these ideas, they never seem to go anywhere. And even when they do, it’s almost too late in the movie to where it feels shoe-horned in there to give it a bigger sense of meaning.

You know, more meaning than just a bunch of kids being naked and having steamy, hot sex. Which is fine and all, because the scenes are lit perfectly and give you the sense that they are literally loving it in the moment, but when it tries to be something more than just that, it sort of stumbles. Maybe had Bertolucci just made this an even smaller, more intimate character-study of these three characters, we probably would have had a tighter, better with a more lasting impact. But sadly, we don’t.

We just have a whole lot of shots of Michael Pitt’s penis and Eva Green’s bum. So you can’t say that there isn’t something for everyone.

Consensus: While it would like to be deeper than it really is, the Dreamers still works in giving us three wonderful performances from the main cast, as well as presenting a story that touches on more than just a whole lot of sex.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Snowpiercer (2014)

Public transportation really is a pain.

In 2014, the government is afraid that global warming will rip our worlds to shreds, so they decide to test out an experiment which will supposedly counteract it. The problem is, that doesn’t happen. Instead, nearly all life on Earth is knocked out, with only a few hundred or so left riding on this super duper, seemingly never-ending train called “the Snowpiercer”. It doesn’t seem ideal at first, but when the world outside of you is a frozen wonderland, you take what you can get; but don’t tell that to those who have to stay, live and survive at the tail-end of the train. They’re considered “the low-life’s of society” that live poor, dress poor, and eat these black gelatin-bricks, they’re are told is “protein”; whereas the rich sit up front, eat their steaks and live in total luxury. It’s been like this for quite some time, but finally, the poor have had enough of being treated like total and utter crap! That’s when Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) decides that it’s his time to step up, take charge and map-out a way to get to the front of the train, find the creator, find that engine, and basically, take over the train as a whole. Sounds simple enough, but with the riot-team this train has, getting there is only half of the mission.

It’s taken quite some time for us Americans to get to see this movie, but finally, Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut is here! And yes, even though I just recently got into him, I have to say, from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been impressed. I like how Joon-ho is seemingly able to take all of these different genres of film, throw them into a blender, add a drop of sugar or two, and somehow, still be able to have it all come out fun, exciting, interesting, original, and best of all, cohesive.

"Call me 'Cap', one more time."

“Call me ‘Cap’, one more time.”

That’s why, as ambitious as this project sounds, I was a little weary. Not because the reviews for it haven’t been good (actually, quite the opposite), but because it seemed like the type of film that gets so hyped-up in the States, because it’s so different/original from anything our lazy, cheeseburger-lovin’ asses see. It doesn’t matter if the film is bad or anything, as long as it features something else other than giant robots facing off against one another, then hey, strap me in coach, I’m ready to play. Personally, I don’t mind that with some movies, but maybe with this here flick, I was more inclined to be against it, solely because everybody and their weird, stay-inside-all-day-nerdy-brothers are loving the hell out of it.

But fear not, ladies and germs! DTMMR has seen Snowpiercer and yet again, DTMMR has given into what the rest of the world has been saying: It’s pretty rad.

That said, the movie isn’t perfect and I think that’s the most important fact to note right away. Because see, while this movie is all sorts of ambitious, strange and, for lack of a better word, “different”, it can be a bit messy. Not just with the action that spills out all over the place at times, but because the balance Joon-ho has here between having people beat the bloody hell out of one another, with said people sitting down, chatting about life and what it all means, isn’t very well-done. You can tell whenever the brakes on this movie are hit, because it doesn’t just slow everything down to a slower-speed, it slows absolutely everything down to a freakin’ halt.

That’s not to say that whenever the movie wanted to sit down, chat for awhile and be more than just “poor vs. rich; fuck yeah!”, it was bad or annoying, it was just clearly obvious that Joon-ho felt like he had to include those moments in there, just so that people wouldn’t be upset that there wasn’t any “substance” behind all of the brutal murders and acts of violence. And although those said brutal murders and acts of violence are a bunch of juicy-fun to watch and see play out, there was still a desperate need for this movie to be about something “more”. Not just in the existential-crisis kind of way where we all take a break or two from the action, to sit around and cry for hours on end about how, one day, we’re all going to die; but in the way that we’re given a story that feels like there’s a reason to it existing.

And for the most part, Joon-ho totally delivers on that point. Not because it’s fun to see a bunch of poor people dressed like chimney-sweepers from a Dickens novel, battle it out with a bunch of riot police, but because you get lost in their cause and what it is that they want. Although, I will admit, it was more interesting seeing as how this movie never quite addresses what it is that these poor ones are wholly fighting for; sure, they want to get to the front of the train, get to that engine, talk to the owner of it and become the big men and women on campus, but in all honesty, what exactly is it that they’re going to do when they get up there? It’s never really brought to our attentions (not just by the film, but by the characters themselves), which is why it’s so thrilling to see them battle their way to the front, and even more thrilling to watch them as they figure out and come to the realization that they have to think of something, and something quick if they want this train to be theirs.

That the film doesn’t feel the need to hit us over the head with non-stop “we’re the 1%” metaphors, really felt like a refresher. But was even more refreshing was just seeing an sci-fi/action blockbuster be exactly all that it should be. It has heart; it has originality; it has blood; it has violence; it has fun; it has sci-fi; it has themes about people taking over control of a situation that they either can’t get out of, or don’t want in the first place that almost everyone can relate to (looking at you, Grandpa); and, to add a cherry on top, there’s a wonderful ensemble cast to go along the ride with as well.

Also, another interesting note to be made about this movie, is it’s cast. Not only are there some pretty big names, but they all comes from different shapes, sizes and regions of the world that it feels so strange having them together, on the same screen at times. Sure, I expected Jamie Bell and John Hurt to eventually cross paths in the film world, but you could have never told me that you’d expect to see Ewen Bremner and Octavia Spencer just hanging out, side-by-side, giving their enemies hell. Then again, maybe you could; maybe, I’m just a strange duckling. But either way, it’s a pretty unique cast that not only works to the movie’s advantage, but also helps make the idea of the whole world being thrown onto this ultra-train all the more believable.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

You can’t just have a dystopian-set futuristic world in which survivors from all throughout the globe have survived, and there be all American white guys just hanging around and shooting the shit about the good old days of bull-shitting about the Bush administration. This is the world, man! And last time I checked: It’s pretty damn big!

But although the cast is huge and pretty eclectic, the one who really leads this to the finish line is none other than an American white guy as is: Chris Evans.

Yes, for most of you hormone-fueled women (as well as gay man), Chris Evans has definitely been the pleasure of your eye-lids for quite some time, but he’s changing that all up now with this role. Not by throwing some dirt on himself and growing a beard, but by showing us that he’s an actor baby, and that he can sure as hell do exactly that, which is act! I’ve always had much faith in Evans as an actor, and here, he’s given free reign to not only command this group of his and be a leader, but also command this movie into being something more than just a sci-fi tale full of havoc, blood and destruction. He gives it some levity; most importantly so during one of the last scenes in the movie in which he talks about his history on that train, why he needs to do what he needs to do, and the type of effect it’s had on him for the past twenty or so years. Not only is it one of the most emotional scenes of the whole movie (of which there isn’t many), but it’s definitely the pinnacle of Evan’s acting-ability and shows that he can play both tough, angry, and emotionally distraught, all at the same time.

A very impressive feat. Try topping that, Downey.

Consensus: Internally, Snowpiercer is a messy flick, but it’s hardly ever boring, intriguing, nor against a crazy, out-of-the-box idea it didn’t like, making it one of the better, more memorable blockbusters of the summer.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess they don't have showers in the future. Oh well. Works for me!

Guess they don’t have showers in the future. Yay! Now I’d have an excuse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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